Posted on October 07, 2011 9:10 AM
Transportation Reauthorization Status Update
Three weeks ago Congress passed a six-month extension to SAFETEA-LU, the most recent federal transportation authorization bill. Since then, House Republicans have suggested finding up to $15 billion in new revenues for their six-year reauthorization bill. This development contrasts to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s initial proposal, which would have limited spending levels to anticipated highway trust fund revenues. Some House Republicans have proposed tying this increased funding to expanded oil and gas drilling. According to this plan, the sale or lease of new mineral and drilling rights would support a larger transportation reauthorization bill.
In related news, last month President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, which would provide an immediate $50 billion for transportation investments. Additionally, the American Jobs Act would provide $10 billion to capitalize a National Infrastructure Bank. President Obama proposes funding the Act by eliminating some tax breaks for corporations and increasing tax rates for upper-income Americans.
Both of these funding proposals stray from the nation’s traditional transportation finance principles. Since 1956, the users of the transportation system have paid directly for its construction and maintenance through gasoline and related excise taxes deposited into the Highway Trust Fund. Recently these revenues have proven inadequate to maintain transportation funding at current levels. GO TO 2040 recommends generating new transportation revenues through more efficient user fees, such as congestion pricing. New fees should be structured to better reflect the actual maintenance and operational needs of the transportation system, as well as the costs of congestion.