Rep. Graves: Let States Keep Highway FundsFebruary 22 | Posted by editor | Fannin, Lumpkin, News, Politics, Union, White Tags: Tom Graves
Washington, D.C. – Let’s take a moment and go back in time. The year: 1956. The location: the storied halls of Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee was debating what was considered to be a new and innovative project — the construction of a nationwide interstate system. The plan before Congress was simple: Build six interstate highways. Three highways would run north to south. Three highways would run east to west.
Back then, the plan was to collect a federal gas tax of 3 cents per gallon for 16 years to pay for the whole project. In 1972, the tax was supposed to drop to 1.5 cents a gallon. Congressmen Hale Boggs and George Fallon even noted at the time that once the interstate system was built, there was no obligation to keep imposing the tax on Americans.
The tax never went away. It never dropped to 1.5 cents a gallon. Instead, it went up — way up. The federal government currently collects 18.4 cents a gallon. And each year, hundreds of millions of dollars of that money go toward paying for the bureaucracy that manages the highway system.
Millions more go to projects that have absolutely nothing to do with the maintenance of America’s interstates — things such as bike paths and walking trails.
What’s worse, Uncle Sam is playing “Robin Hood” with 28 states, including Georgia. These states are called “donor states” because they put in more money to the Highway Trust Fund than they receive from the federal government.
During fiscal years 2005-09, Georgians lost $839 million dollars in gas revenue, receiving back just 89 percent of what we put into the fund; $15 billion from the “donors” went to other states to fund their projects. If you ask me, this gives new meaning to the expression highway robbery.
The federal government has mishandled our gas tax revenue and mistreated states such as Georgia. And it is easy to see why. A big hoard of cash is like catnip for political agendas, earmarkers, lobbyists and the like.
Congress regularly debates how each state should spend the money, mandating dozens of various projects and bogging down progress with more red tape.
It’s about as efficient as pulling out a typewriter to send an email.
Here is what I propose: Let’s cut out the federal government as the middle man. Instead, let the states keep the highway money they collect so they can spend the money on highway projects as they see fit.
I’ve offered an amendment which does just that. It empowers states to control their own highway programs and strictly limit federal involvement to projects that have a national purpose.
Over a five-year transition period, the federal gas tax would drop to 3.7 cents per gallon, which would let the states adjust their own gas tax rates and keep all of the subsequent revenue. It’s an opportunity for Washington to take a back seat to the states and take their hand off the wheel.
It’s a 21st-century solution to a 20th-century problem — the road less traveled in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., represents the 9th District.
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