The Transportation Empowerment Act - HR 3264
What It Does
The plan devolves the federal highway program to the states by gradually phasing out the federal highway and mass transit programs so states can keep their gasoline taxes, set their own infrastructure priorities, and control their own transportation decisions.
How It Works
The plan transfers authority to states over a four-year period. During this time, the federal gasoline tax will remain at 18.4 cents per gallon but states will begin to receive a portion of their taxes in the form of block grants. On October 1, 2017, the transition will be complete and the federal gasoline tax will fall from 18.4 cents to 3.7 cents, allowing states to permanently control 14.7 cents per gallon of the current gasoline tax. This new flexibility will allow states to lower the effective gasoline tax, keep it the same, or increase it in order to meet their individual needs.
Why We Need It
• Our current federal transportation finance system is broken. Since 2007, revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) from the federal gas tax has been inadequate to pay for the myriad of surface transportation program enacted by Congress. To make up for these shortfalls, Congress has transferred $34.5 billion from the general fund to shore up the HTF. Deficits in HTF are projected for the foreseeable future.
• The interstate highway system is largely complete and the federal highway program has lost its focus. With each re-authorization bill, more special-interest programs are created that cause the program to stray farther from its original goal of providing the nation with a major interstate system to connect the East and West Coasts.
• After decades of fighting for equity, donor states continue to send more gasoline taxes to Washington then they get back in funding through the Federal highway program. This unfairness and inefficiency must be fixed. Each state knows best what its needs are and should not have to fight in Washington to get its money back or have to watch its money go to build roads in other states. States should determine local priorities and be allowed to fund them as they see fit.
• Costly mandates drive up the cost of projects funded through the federal highway program. Giving states control over their transportation decisions will provide relief from these regulations and allow them to build more roads with less money. For example, according to a recent Beacon Hill study, the Davis-Bacon wage mandate for federal projects is estimated to drive up the cost of construction by an average of almost ten percent, raising public construction costs by $8.6 billion per year.