Chapter 3 Leader Delivered Cards Signed in Favor of Gas Tax Bill
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Chapter 3 President Jon Hebert hand-delivered to senators cards signed by DOT workers in support of SB 367, the proposed gas tax increase that would provide revenue for the state’s Highway Fund. The Senate was set to vote Thursday on the bill.
Hebert, who is a highway engineer, said the effort to connect with the senators went well.
“It’s always a tough thing getting the senators’ attention when they’re so busy, but we were able to talk to a couple of different senators, which was good,” Hebert said.
Hebert said that one-on-one contact with lawmakers makes a huge difference.
“When you talk to the senators and representatives, when they hear from us, their constituents, it’s more important to them,” he said. “I know a couple of people who’ve called their lawmakers on things and been told ‘you’re the first person to call about that.’ ”
He said the key is being active, and you can be active in simple ways.
“I know it’s difficult, and it’s a bit of a time drain to a certain extent, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a phone call,” he said. “That’s easy stuff. It’s not like you have to spend three hours of your night, and it makes a big dent.”
Many DOT members have heard the call and reached out. Nearly 200 members signed a card in support of SB 367, 68 called their senator and a couple dozen more emailed their senator.
Hebert said that right now in the Legislature, the stakes are huge for his department.
“From my perspective, if we don’t have the additional revenue from the gas tax or another source, it’s going to be a big hit to personnel and the job that we do,” he said.
Hebert said the department’s hardline costs won’t change, and cuts will have to come from somewhere.
“The only thing you can change is the discretionary spending, which is personnel,” he said.
Since he started at the DOT two decades ago, he said the department is down 600 positions. Still, he said, the department is well-regarded for the quality of its work.
“It seems like we walk a fine line,” he said. “We have limited funding and personnel, but we still give a really good product. I think that’s what you look for in state government — you don’t want to waste money.”
Hebert said he and his colleagues work very well together, and said they’re ready and willing to improve the state’s problem roads.
“People say ‘my road’s bumpy, you should fix it,’” he said. “I’d love to, but the problem is no one wants to spend the money. If you don’t spend the money, they’re just going to deteriorate.”
He said if new revenue doesn’t come through, it’s unclear exactly how cuts would impact the department, but any personnel cuts would severely impact the work they do.
“Even 200 people for a department of 1,600 is a big hit to the organization,” he said. “We’d have to do some juggling, close some sheds and possibly close some maintenance districts.”
Given that their jobs are on the line, he said hopes more workers will step up and advocate for themselves.
“When something like this comes along, and it’s your job, you’d hope that people could come out and call their lawmakers or sign a card,” Hebert said. “For things that are important to your livelihood and your family, people should be jumping at the opportunity to do something.”