Next Shutdown Threat: Highway Funding

This is what happens when the Central Government hasn’t actually had a real budget during the entirety of Obama’s time in officer

(The Hill) Transportation funding is running on empty, forcing Congress to scramble to meet its next major deadline before the tank runs dry on May 31.

Both parties say they want to avoid a repeat of last month’s tense standoff over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. But the likelihood of an impasse increases with each day that passes without an infrastructure reauthorization bill, and transportation advocates warn that more brinkmanship would be disastrous.

What’s the problem? How to pay for it (cough * pass an actual budget * cough)

While all sides back passage of a long-term transportation funding measure this year, there is little consensus about how to pay for the new round of infrastructure spending.

Obviously, some are super thrilled by raising the gas tax

The Equipment Manufacturers and other transportation groups have come out in favor of an increase in the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, but many in Congress oppose asking drivers to pay more at the pump to help pay for road projects.

The gas tax has been the traditional source for federal transportation funding since its inception in the 1930’s — predating the Interstate State Highway System by about 20 years. But it has struggled to keep pace with construction costs, as cars become more fuel-efficient.

So, Government mandates that vehicle become more fuel efficient, push for more hybrids and electric vehicles, and then are shocked when the revenue from the gas tax decreases exponentially. But, hey, why not use gimmicks?

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) issued a proposal Thursday to nearly double the gas tax. If lawmakers find that politically untenable Pete Ruane, the group’s president, offered a potential deal sweetener.

“If our national leaders think they need to use budget gimmicks or ‘one-offs’ again to pass the surface transportation investment program the states need and the business community has been pleading for, then use those devices to provide a $90 tax rebate to middle and lower income tax filers to offset the cost to them of a 15 cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax,” he said.

Sure thing. That makes sense. Not.

Also noted in the article is the reality that many Republican led states are looking to increase the state gas tax, and many of them have already. Here in North Carolina that is being debated. It’s not like NC already has one of the highest gas taxes in the country already. So, any federal raise would be a double whammy, since many Democrat led states have raised their gas tax. Many are pushing a per-mile usage fee.

“Rather than raise the federal gas tax, a better policy would be to repeal the federal tax and let states pay for their own road projects,” the Heritage Action group said in a blog post on its website. “Devolving transportation projects back to the states will ensure that gas tax money is used for the highest value-added projects.

States know better as to which roads are in need of repair, and would spend that money much better than the federal government. How much money was wasted for infrastructure projects via The Stimulus? Roads that needed no repair were repaired. How much stupidity and pork are inserted into every federal infrastructure funding bill over the years, a problem for both Republicans and Democrats?

The federal program made sense back in the middle part of the 20th century, when the country was building big roads that allowed citizens to move around the country, like I-95 and I-40. Today, when those roads are already built, it makes more sense to allow the States to maintain them, with some federal oversight over the Interstates.

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8 Responses to “Next Shutdown Threat: Highway Funding”

  1. Since pretty much everybody has an SUV already, can’t we just drive around in the dirt- what do we need roads for?

  2. DCE says:

    Of course if all of the gas tax revenues actually went to fund roads, bridges, and other highway/road related projects and activities, the federal highway fund wouldn’t be ’empty’. Because a lot of money has also gone towards paying for consistently deficit-ridden mass transit systems and commuter rail lines as well as expansion of those same systems, that has pulled much needed funds away from the highway fund’s original reason for being – to fund highways.

    My home state of New Hampshire has seen its legislature raiding our state highway fund to pay for all kinds of things having no relationship to its constitutionally mandated purpose – to fund the construction and maintenance of our highways and roads along with patrolling and enforcement of traffic laws upon them. At one point the legislature was taking 60% of the highway funds to pay for family courts, state HHS projects, and sundry other non-highway spending. The governor finally stepped in and castigated the legislature for using the highway fund “like an ATM”, vetoing the state budget until the legislature relented. There are still time when the legislature steals money from the fund, but it is a fraction of the problem it once was…but it’s still a problem.

    Now if we could only get Congress to stop using the federal fund for non-highway purposes.

  3. Dana says:

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. Federal law requires that at least 92¢ out of every $1.00 of the gasoline tax be spent in the state in which it was collected. The solution is not to raise the federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, but to reduce them by 92%! This gives the states the room that they need to raise their fuel taxes, if they see the need, and gets the federal government out of what should be state projects.

    Kind of makes me wonder: what kind of interstate highway projects can you have in Hawai’i?

    Right now, the states go hat-in-hand to Washington, begging for federal highway dollars. They wind up seeing delays before they get the money, and then, once they do get it, money is wasted on both state and federal bureaucracies taking care of the inspection and compliance regulations.

    And, of course, there’s something strange about needing to get congressmen from Montana and Oregon to approve highway projects in Kentucky and Pennsylvania; what do they know about those states’ needs?

  4. John says:

    Teach. I drive a truck our roads are in very bad shape
    The states are supposed to maintain interstates and they don’t
    Especially bad are the poor red states like LA and MS
    The fed tax has not been increased in 20 years
    It has not kept up with inflation
    European roads are in much better shape than ours
    Your assertation that lower fuel consumption of green vehicles is why our roads are bad is a joke, ? Right
    Transportation fuel use ALS triplex since 1960 and you blame greenies ?
    The Feds control interstate transport and should continue
    Teach those stimulus funds? They were given to the states and the states decided where to use them

  5. John says:

    Teach how much confidence do you have that the GOP controlled congress will fix this problem ?

  6. John says:

    Teach according to Fortune mag 8 out of the top ten most corrupt states are solid RED

  7. Dana says:

    John wrote:

    Especially bad are the poor red states like LA and MS

    Haven’t driven in Pennsylvania much, have you? 🙂

    I have no objection to some sort of tax related to driving being levied specifically for road construction and maintenance; as far as I am concerned, such are basically user fees. More, I’d rather pay higher road use taxes, knowing that those funds were being used for the roads, and lower income taxes, knowing that some of those are going to support lazy scumbags who won’t work!

    But I see no reason at all to take the money, and responsibility, away from the states. All that does is add a useless layer of bureaucracy; paying for more paper doesn’t make the roads better! If a particular state doesn’t do it well, their elected officials are still responsible to the voters in those states.

  8. Jl says:

    John-According to the truth Barack Obama is the most corrupt Democratic president ever.

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