Transportation Empowerment Act
Introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves & U.S. Sen. Mike Lee

“People want to spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life. Our bill does away with the Washington middleman and streamlines the highway program, allowing more projects to be completed at a lower cost. This approach paves the way for commuters to move more easily between home and work, freeing up important family time and cutting out hours of frustration behind the wheel.” - Congressman Tom Graves

The Transportation Empowerment (TEA) Act would completely reform the current highway funding program. It aims to open up America’s transportation system to greater local control, better targeted projects, and a more efficient way to maintain and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The bill allows states to respond to the needs of their communities and develop systems that result in less traffic, shorter commutes, access to more affordable homes, and will help families better manage the work-life balance.

Click here to watch Rep. Graves talk about TEA on Fox News.

How it Works
  • Transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.

  • Lowers the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents from 18.4 cents over the same time period.

  • During the five-year phase out, states will receive block grants that come with vastly fewer federal strings attached.

What It Does

  • Immediately reduces the bureaucratic burden involved in the construction of critical transportation projects.

  • Results in a faster administrative response to the transportation problems Americans face, such as traffic, commuting, and access.

  • Gives states greater flexibility in their tax structure.

  • Connects where people want to work with where they want to live.

  • Opens opportunities to develop new mass-transit solutions, innovate environmental protections, and improve the financing of projects.

  • Creates jobs and grows the economy.

Why The Current System Hurts The Commute

  • When the costs of federal red tape and Highway Trust Fund redistribution are taken into account, 37 states, including Georgia, have a rate of return below 100%. For example, Georgia’s estimated buying power in Fiscal Year 2014 is anticipated to be approximately 84% based on the most recent Highway Trust Fund payment information available, costing Georgia taxpayers $185 million.

  • For Fiscal Year 2014, $820 million was authorized nationwide for so-called “transportation alternatives” defined in part as landscaping, scenic beautification, and transportation museums, among other items.

Click here for the bill text and list of cosponsors. The TEA Act is H.R. 3486 in the House and S. 1702 in the Senate.


TEA In The News

National Review: Don't Raise The Gas Tax
Cut the gas tax and let states pay for the highways within their borders. Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Representative Tom Graves (R., Ga.) have proposed a bill that would do essentially this, and it makes a number of other important improvements to highway policies.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: End D.C.’s highway robbery
Could Georgia use another $185 million this year to spend on roads, bridges and transit? You bet. ... That money will be at our disposal if the Transportation Empowerment Act becomes law and devolves much federal responsibility for transportation policy and funding to the states. ... Shifting power toward taxpayers and their local and state governments is the right direction to take.

Reason: Death to the Federal Gas Tax
Last November, Graves introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act, which was cosponsored through Senate legislation by Republican Mike Lee. By drastically reducing the tax, it would enable states to manage their own transportation policies, improving a process that has become massively inefficient under federal oversight.

Denver Post
: A chance to bring transportation power and money back to the states
For decades, U.S. transportation policy has been stagnant. Because about half of gasoline taxes cycle through Washington, D.C., cost-sharing and benefits in transportation are distorted. A new bill offers a chance to restore the balance. ... Citizens who favor more highway funding dollars staying in Colorado should take a close look at the Lee-Graves proposal.

Peach Pundit: Tom Graves Wants To Reform Transportation Funding
Transferring taxing responsibility to the states, even if the tax at the pump remains the same, would actually add dollars available for road construction. That’s because most states, including Georgia, don’t get back all the money they pay in gas taxes, and because many expensive environmental reviews and other requirements imposed by the federal government would be eliminated.

Rome News-Tribune: Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce meets with state lawmakers 
Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cassville, added that one problem is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which he said throws up roadblocks to transportation projects. Coomer referenced U.S. Rep. Tom Graves’ transportation empowerment act bill, an initiative he supports that would give local governments more control over infrastructure projects.

Politico: Graves’s bill has attracted 30 co-sponsors in the House. Sen Mike Lee’s Senate bill is also supported by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) Major conservative groups like Heritage Action and the National Taxpayers Union are backing the legislation.

The Heartland Institute: States Launching a Quiet Revolution in Infrastructure Funding
There is a quiet revolution in transportation funding underway these days. Faced with a depleted Highway Trust Fund and uncertain prospects for more money from a deficit-conscious Congress, many states are taking matters into their own hands and aggressively pursuing more fiscal independence.

Detroit Free Press: Rep. Kerry Bentivolio: A better way to getting better roads
The Transportation Empowerment Act completely reforms the way the federal government distributes highway funds, by promoting local control, efficient projects and a more competent system for fixing our crumbling infrastructure.

Heritage Foundation: Rep. Graves: Reform ‘Bankrupt,’ ‘Messy’ Federal Highway Program
Graves touted highway program reforms in which authority “would be transferred to the states” through block grants. The states would then expand and improve roads and highways instead of relying on “the bankrupt, messy federal highway program.”...“It’s about making lives better for everyday Americans,” he noted. “It’s not about dollars, debt, and balance sheets.”