Transportation funding debate draws different bills, familiar concepts

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Monday, November 18, 2013

Congress is considering a number of bills to address the nation’s transportation funding crisis. One recent bill in the Senate puts a new spin on the national infrastructure bank concept while a separate measure aims to devolve the federal transportation program and let the states sort things out.

A national infrastructure bank would loan money for transportation projects of regional or national significance, according to a recent bill introduced by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., known as the BRIDGE Act. The infrastructure bank would grow as the loans are paid back with interest and would be used to fund projects with a $10 million price tag or greater.

The concept of an infrastructure bank has been attempted many times in recent years.

The Warner bill is similar but not a direct companion to a bill filed by House Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.

Warner’s bill would generate seed money for the infrastructure bank from the sale of unused federal buildings rather than tapping into the Highway Trust Fund or general Treasury funds.

A separate concept altogether comes from a pair of bills that aim to devolve the federal role in transportation altogether and transfer the decision-making power to the states.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is the chief sponsor of S1702 in the Senate, while Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., has sponsored HR3486 in the House.

Both bills call for a reduced federal role in transportation and would drastically cut the federal fuel tax by 2018.

The bill sponsors envision the current 24.3 cents a gallon for diesel fuel as decreasing to just 5 cents per gallon by 2018. The current 18.3 cent tax on gasoline would fall to just under 4 cents a gallon according to the bills. States could then increase their own taxes and fees to make up the difference.

OOIDA supports a strong federal role in transportation and not the piecemeal approach to highway and bridge funding being proposed in the devolution bills.

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