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STATEMENT OF H. A. THOMSON, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA
STATE ASSOCIATION OF TOWNSHIP SUPERVISORS, UPPER DARBY, PA.
Mr. Thomson. My statement will be brief in accordance with your request. I will summarize.
We appreciate the opportunity of presenting to the membership of this committee the viewpoint of township government upon the road problem being considered by your committee. We might note that our townships are responsible for a tremendous road mileage about one-half million miles and are naturally interested in any road problem as a road-construction program at any governmental level must inevitably affect our township roads which are largely of the rural character.
Basically our position may be stated as being in general in favor of more and better highways, but we do feel that the rather revolutionary method proposed in legislation before your committee may, in the long run, do more harm that good as under its policy it will strengthen and enlarge an already large Federal bureau at the expense of State and local governments.
Roadbuilding is now and has been historically a State and local function and in the case of our townships one of the largest functions of our township government. We believe it is still true in this function as in other governmental functions that the closer you can keep the government to the people the better that government will be and we are firmly convinced from our experience in our respective States that at the township level the township dollar expended for these governmental functions is producing more value in cents than the tax dollars collected and spent at the higher governmental levels.
We are not financial or economic experts and do not wish to comment at length upon the financial aspects of this legislation. They have been commented upon by experts and I might note in that connection that we particularly admire the statements made thereon by United States Senator Harry Byrd, of Virginia, but we do recognize the fact that any financing program such as is proposed here which must inevitably speed up and increase inflation will inevitably as well produce less roads per dollar in the final analysis.
We would call to this committee's attention that our township-road system is entirely ignored in this legislation and also to the fact that while our township roads do not carry great volumes of traffic still the traffic over those roads is important enough to the economy of this Nation and of far greater importance than the traffic count would indicate.
We are, therefore, pleading for more help for our township-ruralroad system. If this cannot be done in the legislation before your committee then more consideration should be given in the regular Federal-aid legislation also considered by your committee. Not only an allocation to secondary roads but more particularly in the attitude of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads toward the improvement of these rural-road systems.
It is the opinion of our organization that the Federal 2 cent tax on gasoline should be repealed. It would undoubtedly be reenacted promptly by the various States where it would also just as inevitably produce a far greater value in road construction than it will in the Federal field.
Again recognizing that this legislation carries no recognition of the township road system but gives overriding attention to the Interstate System which we suspect has been strongly influenced by commercial interests interested in long haul transportation. We would call to your attention that all highways must serve local as well as interstate traffic and should be given equal consideration. We, very frankly, feel that this equal consideration has been lacking at the Federal level.
We are opposed to that part of this legislation which earmarks the Federal 2 cent gasoline tax for Federal budgetary requirements for road bonds. We again recommend the repeal of this tax and its assumption at the State level.
We see a real danger in the creation of the Highway Corporation in this legislation. It will greatly expand Federal power and authority and in the highway field at least it will be a start of the complete assumption of control by the Federal Government over the State and local governments. This is a blow at the fundamental principle of our Government that the foundation of democracy is at the local level and we respectfully call the attention of your committee to this angle of the picture.
There is a serious question involved in the carrying out of the program as contemplated under this legislation. It contemplates an extensive system of limited access highways and from our standpoint and experience the destruction of property value and the very definite lessening of taxable valuation in many cases becomes a serious problem to our township units of government. I would call to your attention the situation where a limited access highway will replace what is presently a main through highway. We have here the actual destruction of assessable and taxable value by reason of the condemnation of valuable ground for the limited access highway itself. We have this damage compounded by the lessening of value on the existing through highway with its many services already constructed underway and with a tangible tax return to the local unit of government.
We also want to call to the attention that this corporation that would construct these interstate highways at the Federal level has no conrols whatever over their authority to condemn, close and relocate intersecting roads and we have already found this to be quite a problem in some of our States in the matter of limited access highway construction.
In summary we recognize the need and importance of more, many more, improved highways in this Nation. We do not believe that the methods outlined in the present legislation are the proper methods of achieving this result.
We recommend the repeal of the 2-cent Federal gas tax and its reimposition by the respective States. We recommend a continuation of the present Federal-aid law on the present matching basis in which the State and local governments do have a slight say and in this connection, recommend more consideration be given to the townshiproad systems of this Nation which are the farm to market roads and as stated above of great importance to the economy of this Nation.
These recommendations would result in the retention of State controls, the stopping of the greatly increased Federal bureaucracy which is becoming a real danger to our Government. The stabilization of the financial situation of the Federal Government, the saving of billions of dollars in interest and the even distribution of road revenue over the future years to meet changing conditions in our highway systems.
Senator GORE. Do you think we should consider our transportation, our highway problem, as a whole?
Mr. THOMSON. We feel that local roads are a part of our whole highway system of this Nation and a very important part, sir.
Senator GORE. Do you think we should give consideration to them during the next 30 years and not concentrate all our effort on the Interstate System?
Mr. THOMSON. I think the Interstate System naturally deserves primary consideration, but certainly the local rural roads, being an integral and important part of the economic situation, deserve some consideration.
Senator GORE. Those roads are quite important to the people who use them, aren't they?
Mr. Thomson. Very important. The most important road to any man in this Nation is the road in front of his own house.
Senator GORE. Senator McNamara ?
Senator McNAMARA. I have no questions. I think that is a rather punchy conclusion, Mr. Chairman.
Senator GORE. It is one which is understood by men who have to seek public office by votes of the people. Thank you very much, Mr. Thomson. This will conclude the hearing until after the Easter recess. After the recess the chairman will undertake to arrange a trip by the subcommittee and then conclude with 1 week's hearings. The dates of both will be announced later.
(Whereupon, at 10:46 a. m., the hearing was concluded.)
NATIONAL HIGHWAY PROGRAM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 1955
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.O. The subcommittee met at 10:20 a. m., in room 412, Senate Office Building, Senator Albert Gore (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senators Gore, Symington, Thurmond, Martin, Case, and Bush.
Also present: Senators Millikin, Watkins, Bennett, and Allott; Representatives Aspinall, Chenoweth, and Rogers.
Senator GORE. The committee will come to order.
The committee is pleased to have the former Senator and now Gov. Ed Johnson before us. It is also pleased to have present Senator Watkins, Senator_Allott, Senator Millikin, and Senator Bennett, and Congressmen Rogers, Aspinall, and Chenoweth.
Governor Johnson, the committee will be pleased to hear you.
STATEMENT OF HON. ED JOHNSON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF
Governor JOHNSON. Our Senators, Senator Millikin and Senator Bennett, have to be in the Finance Committee at 10:30. I hope that you can hear them first. And Senator Allott, from Colorado, has a committee that he has to attend presently.
I do not know whether Senator Watkins has any pressure on him or not.
Senator WATKINS. I am willing to wait until the Governor of Colorado has made his statement.
Governor JOHNSON. If you will hear Senator Millikin and Senator Bennett first, please?
Senator GORE. Senator Millikin?
Senator Millikin. I would be happy to yield to Governor Johnson, to hear what he has to say.
Governor JOHNSON. Senator Bennett?
STATEMENT OF HON. WALLACE F. BENNETT, A UNITED STATES
SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF UTAH Senator BENNETT. I appreciate the concern of the former distinguished member of the Finance Committee for the problems of the Finance Committee this morning, and I would appreciate a chance to make a short statement and then report to my other duties.