House bill would devolve highway funding to the states

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would allow states to opt out of the federal transportation program and keep all fuel-tax money they collect within their borders.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-NJ, filed bill HR1065 on March 12, calling it the STATE act, the Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity Act.

He explained his rationale to News Anchor Reed Black of “Land Line Now.”

“To the driver, you wouldn’t see any difference at the pump,” Garrett said. “The tax you pay as a motorist would stay the same. The difference is that the money is being taxed by the state and staying in the state instead of going to Washington.”

Garrett is promoting the idea as a pilot program, saying it would end “taxpayer bailouts” of the Highway Trust Fund.

“If a state were to opt into this plan, they’d be opting out of the federal system,” he said.

Rather than forcing states by federal statutes to spend highway dollars on highways, states would be left to their own “desire and intent” to keep highways in good shape, Garrett says.

Garrett filed a similar bill in 2011 – also called the STATE act – but the bill did not make it into the final version of the two-year highway bill known as MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

Truckers rely on a federally funded transportation system administered by the states but with certain structures and rules in place for the money.

In its highway funding principles, OOIDA supports a robust federal system, as opposed to a patchwork of state systems, paid for with user fees including federal fuel taxes.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley pointed out on “Land Line Now” earlier this week that not all states are good at handling transportation dollars and that some are good at diverting transportation money to non-transportation-related projects.

He noted that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing earlier this year focused on the importance of the federal government’s role in transportation infrastructure. 

“Land Line Now” News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this story.

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