Senate begins debate on highway bill, setting up weekend session
The Senate on Friday formally started debate on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s six-year highway bill, setting up a weekend session and putting the chamber on a collision course with the House.
Senators voted to proceed to the bill negotiated by McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a 51-26 vote that split both parties. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/249065-senate-begins-debate-on-highway-bill-setting-up-weekend-session
Without congressional action, highway funding will come to a halt at the end of July.
America has a transportation problem. Its highways and bridges are in desperate need of repairs. Its major population centers are in desperate need of road and rail capacity to get people and products out of traffic jams. And the Highway Trust Fund — used to build and maintain those roads, bridges and transit systems — is running short of cash. Without congressional action, federally financed projects will come to a halt at the end of this month.
Is there a solution to the problem? A fix? One that would/could work without increasing the taxes? In USA Today’s opposing view a reader responds with a solution that is an obvious solution, one that keeps staring us in the face; one that since the late 70s I have not heard expressed; one that Congress needs to look at and consider as a serious solution.
USA Today Opposing View:
By David Mcintoish
Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system.
Raising the gas tax to prop up the Highway Trust Fund is like pumping gas into a junkyard car. For every $1 of gas tax, Washington wastes 20% to 30% in needless federal regulations that jack up highway construction costs.
Here’s a better idea: Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system. And step one is to push politicians in Washington, D.C., to the side of the highway funding road.
The current federal funding scheme for highways takes your gas tax money to Washington, lops off a big chunk to pay for federal bureaucracy, and then inefficiently redistributes some of those dollars back to the states for roads. The problem is the federal middleman.
Projects handled at the federal level are rife with costly regulations, such as the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 that drives up labor costs. The price tag for highway work is also increased by federal environmental rules and duplicative planning studies.
Every state has its own Department of Transportation that studies, plans and executes the road projects that matter most to that state. Why do they need the waste, inefficiency and redundancy that arise from the federal layer of bureaucracy?
This year, the Highway Trust Fund will spend more than $50 billion, including billions for non-highway projects, and will run at a deficit of more than $10 billion. The primary focus in Congress — as it has been for years — is on finding new ways to fund that deficit, instead of looking for ways to stop the spending that causes the deficit.
Let’s drop this nonsense of raising the gas tax. Congress should leave the money and responsibility for road construction and repairs where they belong — back at the state and local levels. One good proposal to do that already exists; it’s the Transportation Empowerment Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.
Their legislation would gradually eliminate the federal gas tax, while giving states the accountability and responsibility to identify and undertake highway projects, using infrastructure funds that would be kept at home instead of wasted in Washington.
David McIntosh is president of the Club for Growth.
This approach probably makes more sense than other solutions if Congress would:
- Leave the federal gas tax as it is
- Feep the money in the state fund
- Legislatively tag the money so that it cannot be used for anything but road work
- Phase out the administration of the tax at the federal level
- Re-define the role of FHWA as an administrative overseer of highway design, safety regulations etc.
- Eliminate all the Federal “hoops” required to do Interstate road work