What are the odds of a boost in highway funding? (with related video)
Washington is trying to figure out how to fund future highway construction and maintenance. The Senate Finance Committee started holding hearings this week on this subject: “New Routes for Funding and Financing Highways and Transit.”
For FY 2015, the White House has proposed the GROW America Act, a $302 billion, four-year piece of legislation funded by a one-time cash contribution achieved through a revision in the corporate tax code. GPN recently wrote about the administration’s transportation funding proposal.
Other proposals call for raising federal gasoline and diesel taxes to address the highway funding problem in the near term. Some say that more public-private partnerships and increased use of highway and bridge tolls are two solutions for repairing the crumbling transportation infrastructure.
Below are the views on future highway funding from Robert Atkinson, who is president of the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Atkinson served as chair of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission during the George W. Bush Administration. Here are the views of Robert Atkinson.
GPN: What are the chances the president’s proposed transportation funding program will be approved by the Sept. 30 deadline?
Robert Atkinson: As it is defined by the administration, highly unlikely.
GPN: Will the program be a game-changer, even if a more modest program passes?
RA: It is doubtful that Congress will do anything bold, like increase the gas tax, devolve authority to the states, put in place significant incentives for tolling and public-private partnerships, or make a major push to move to a vehicle miles travelled (VMT) system.
GPN: Will closing tax loopholes fund part of the program?
RA: Highly unlikely, if by that you mean the administration’s ill-advised proposal to increase corporate taxes to pay for part of the shortfall in the bill.
GPN: What can state and local government officials do now to ensure they get their fair share of highway funding for their jurisdiction?
RA: They could all get on tractors and do a mass demonstration on the National Mall by the White House. More seriously, governors could all commit to increasing their gas taxes 5 cents a gallon but only if Congress and the administration increases the federal gas tax by at least 5 cents.
But the stark reality is that it’s highly unlikely that Washington will increase funding going to the federal Highway Trust Fund, and so states and local governments will increasingly have to turn to public-private partnerships, tolling and gas tax increases of their own.
Thank you, Robert Atkinson, for your views.
The ITIF is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank at the cutting edge of designing innovation policies and documenting how advances in technology are creating new opportunities to boost economic growth.
In this video, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials executive director Bud Wright delivers a presentation titled, “Surface Transportation: The Crisis Facing the Nation’s Highway Trust Fund.”