Conservatives introduce “TEA” highway bill that scraps federal program, but pushes tolls, P3s, & transit boondoggles
While Graves, Lee and Rubio may believe they’re offloading their federal gas tax revenue problem to the states, in reality, they’re seeking to compound the problem 50-fold; the states aren’t any better than the feds on transportation funding. We should not be encouraging more tolling of any kind, whether at the federal or state level. Tolls are a tax. The principle of “pay-as-you-go” must be applied at both the federal and state levels. Indeed, it must be legislated.
By Terri Hall | August 13, 2014
SFPPR News & Analysis
A group of conservative congressmen filed a bill to scrap the federal highway program and devolve the task of building and maintaining America’s highway system to the states. U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the bill dubbed the Transportation Empowerment Act or the TEA Act – H.R. 3486 in the House and S. 1702 in the Senate. The TEA acronym harkens back to the Agenda 21-inspired Transportation Equity Act (TEA) series of highway bills that opened the door to a multi-national highway system, so-called ‘innovative financing’ schemes, and widespread tolling – even imposing tolls on existing interstates.
The Lee-Graves TEA bill would reduce the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents a gallon down to 3.7 cents over 5 years and the authors encourage more tolling, public-private partnerships (P3s), and even light rail. Reducing the federal gas tax will only translate into an increase at the state level, by the authors’ own admission.
They tout the bill as a way to reduce the size and role of the federal government while also cutting commute times and improving quality of life, but when you look at the details, it begs the question, for whom? The answer is for those who can afford to pay for the increased cost of tolls in addition to the federal and state gas tax to get the faster ride.
While this idea of “devolving” the job of building highways to the states plays well politically with conservatives by bashing the federal bureaucracy, there’s a need for a federal role in highways, especially for interstate commerce. We all know some states will never collect enough revenue to pay for their interstates, hence some states donate to others because we understand the benefit of a high-quality national interstate highway system – whether to transport goods to market, conduct business, or to explore and visit other states for personal travel.
Do we want Interstate-10, for instance, that crosses every southern state from California to Florida to turn into a patchwork quilt if certain states fail to maintain them or impede interstate commerce if they impose tolls through that state? We’re taking away a seamless national highway network and turning it into a slice-and-dice patchwork that could eventually mean you never know what you’re gonna get when you leave one state and enter the next.
Read the rest of the column here.