National Review Highlights Congressman Tom Graves’ Bill In Light Of Proposed Gas Tax Hike

June 20, 2014 13:50 pm

by Nathan · 20 comments

There has been discussion about a federal “fix” to the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) along with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) have proposed an increase in the federal gasoline tax to fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

National Review disagrees with the move calling it bad policy and bad politics:

Corker’s idea is bad policy and bad politics. The politics: Gas prices are rising rapidly, taxes on fuel are regressive, and Americans, rightly, really don’t like when you raise any kind of tax at all.

There’s no pressing policy reason to increase the tax. The trust fund has plenty of money to fund highway priorities that the federal government needs to address — especially if federal money were spent more efficiently. But the fund is running dry because, instead, Congress has repeatedly lavished spending on non-highway priorities and on intrastate issues. Drivers across America shouldn’t have to pay for projects that House appropriators like, but that’s the way the trust fund works now. Corker is proposing to let this continue.

They highlight a piece of legislation, the Transportation Empowerment Act, being promoted by both Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA-14) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to cut the federal gasoline tax and have states make the decisions on infrastructure projects themselves rather than the federal government.

Congressman Graves gives an explanation of the bill in an email his office sent out in a district update:

The plan cuts out Washington’s politics and red tape, which means roads would be constructed more quickly and at a lower cost to taxpayers.

My office estimates that Georgia would’ve saved $185 million this year under my plan.

Above all, I believe this policy battle has a very real impact on your life.

Think about it this way: if we had new and better roads, how much shorter would your commute be?

How much more time could you spend with your family?

Would you be connected to new job opportunities or more affordable housing?

Better roads would mean a better life for a lot people. I think we can get there by taking power from Washington and transferring it back to the states.

Discuss.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Will Durant June 20, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Pray tell how would Georgia save $185 million annually when taxes would have to be raised not only to pay fully for the interstates but also to service the debt on the $1.5 billion in GARVEE bonds, not to mention the other bonds already sold. The only way to payoff the bonds is to raise state and local taxes even further to compensate. I mean, you can’t very well pay Grant Anticipation bonds if you ain’t anticipating anymore grants. This is one federal teat that has already been sucked.

Jon Richards June 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm

When in Washington recently, I asked House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster about the chances of Graves’ bill passing. He didn’t think they would be very high because there would be winners and losers among the states if it went into effect.

Some states get a lot more out of the gas tax than they put in, and vice-versa.

GTKay June 21, 2014 at 11:17 am

I believe all states get back more than they put in. They’ve been supplementing the trust fund out of the general fund.
The only way Graves’ bill would work is if Georgia increased our gas tax to make up the difference, and I don’t see that happening. The portion of the tax that IS indexed to inflation keeps getting neutered by various governors.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Good points and good comments.

FranInAtlanta June 20, 2014 at 2:56 pm

This “each state do its own” might make sense if we didn’t have a number of out-of-staters passing through.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm

A large number of out-of-state motorists is exactly the thing that could make such a system work…because you can collect user fees from them without having to give them refunds.

John Konop June 20, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Good point ie Florida, Illinois, Texas…..

Will Durant June 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm

The ultimate, ubiquitous, unbiased, unpretentious, unobtrusive, uncostly user fee is already in place. It is called the motor fuel tax.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

You are correct….The only problem is that the motor fuel tax is not indexed to inflation to keep up with rising road maintenance costs.

MattMD June 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Timing is everything and this is just bad timing.

jimgilvin June 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

Anyone skeptical of Congressman Graves cost savings projections should call their local public works director and ask them whether or not a federally funded project should be expected to cost at least 15% more and take at least 15% longer. The actual costs are usually far more than 15% but I feel confident no EPW director worth their salt would deny that as a minimum.

Or just google Alpharetta’s recent city council discussion of a 1/2 mile high speed bike trail that was to be funded with federal grant money but is still in the design phase after 3 1/2 years because of changing federal guidelines and long eared bats. Had the funds been block granted to the states and given to locals w/o federal red tape the project would already be completed at 2012 prices with no requirement for bat habitat studies.

saltycracker June 22, 2014 at 11:35 am

Fair points for local control but then we have, like, the City of Atlanta requiring minority, female, disability participation then come up with grants, loans, advances and “weird” alliances to make it happen…..that can’t be cheap, minimize corruption or necessarily award the best performer.

jimgilvin June 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm

The great thing about local control is that it allows competition which rewards efficient states and municipalities . For example the punitive tax and regulatory environment in states like Illinois and California or cities like Detroit cause businesses to relocate in Texas and Georgia. In that way states, counties and cities who allocate resources the most effectively are rewarded and so are the businesses and residents who seek out those locations.

Assuming your illustration of Atlanta were correct then a business or residents is free to relocate to the suburbs (as the Atlanta Braves are doing) or they could choose another metropolitan area all together. But when corruption, high taxes, inefficient spending practices and restrictive policies take place on a national level the only option left for a business is to relocate out of the country.

saltycracker June 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Certainly agree local control leaves more options (I like options), disappointingly our locals are also too quick to serve special interests. Public office is so intoxicating.

“unintended consequences” smile on the bat study – a couple years ago we watched a large population of bats get run off only to have all the wrong insects move in to make life hell.

DavidTC June 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Think about it this way: if we had new and better roads, how much shorter would your commute be?

…the same distance? Are we going to build them straighter, through hills and houses and whatnot? Or by ‘newer’, does he mean we’ve invented technology to run the roads through wormholes? What is the premise here?

It’s like he’s creating advertising copy for road-making companies without actually knowing what a ‘road’ is. It’s almost surreal.

‘If you had newer and better toothpaste, how much cleaner would your teeth be?’ ‘If you had newer and better soda, how much tastier would your soda be?’ ‘If you had newer and better cellphones, how much callier would your phone be?’

Do these new and better roads have less traffic on them? Cause, you know, that’s why we actually have an issue with the roads in this state.

Magically replacing all existing roads with newer roads would, uh, result in the same amount of traffic, and likewise making them out of better material (Have there really been much advances in road-making?) might make things slightly better.

But the actual real problem is we’re moving too many people too far for our current roads to handle, and even adding roads is a poor solution. ‘Newer and better’ roads isn’t a solution at all.

saltycracker June 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm

For years the newer and better 400 made my commute from Roswell to the Northlake area ITP a timely breeze….fortunately more businesses are moving OTP….. road improvement OTP has not kept pace and the complex factors of land, zoning, city competition, work requirements, residential preferences and so on allow minimum choices for walking, bus, rail or van pooling leaving cars, usually single driver, no passenger as the primary (not only) mode for the future around here……unless we confine most commercial zoning to city centers or along limited corridors.

Jon Lester June 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Aren’t fuel taxes charged by the gallon? When prices rise, people drive less, so this might not be such a great fix, after all.

Some radical changes to our foreign policy would help to that end, too, of course.

Will Durant June 24, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Yes and the last time the Federal Motor Fuel Tax was increased the final pump price including the tax was averaging a penny or two more than $1 per gallon. The price of maintaining the infrastructure goes up with inflation and so should the means used to pay for that infrastructure. It is just that simple.

As to foreign policy we have spent trillions in the Mideast and that may not show up on your pump price but it is killing us literally and metaphorically elsewhere. The Chinese and Japanese have spent very little in the Mideast but get their oil at the same prices we do in the end. Our trillions don’t even give us dibs when it comes to bidding on their oil.

seekingtounderstand June 24, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Why did Georgia renew the tax credit for electric cars when that money comes from our tax dollars when our highways need the money. Subsidizing car companies for expensive electric cars that only the well off can afford is a bad idea.
I thought GA might have just stopped this tax credit at the end of last year but they voted to continue all the while crying for more highway dollars.
And Georgia roads look bad and trashy, we use to be proud of our highways and complain about how bad the roads where in other states. Our roads look like no one cares in Georgia.

xdog June 25, 2014 at 8:02 am

Electric cars are the future for automakers. One of the futures, anyway.

Concerning road appearance, my view is Georgia roads don’t look worse than they ever have because we Georgians are happy to toss our garbage anywhere.