States Would Fend for Themselves Under Newly Proposed Federal Transportation Legislation

As reported by Better Roads, legislation has recently been introduced at the federal level that would essentially eliminate federal funding for transportation over the next five years.  The legislation, called the Transportation Empowerment Act, is sponsored by Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Mike Graves.

The Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) would lower the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon in five years, while moving authority over federal highways and programs to the states. The measure would also remove congressional appropriations, replacing them with block grants.

The idea, known as “devolution,” faces opposition by those who believe the federal government can best handle the transportation infrastructure between states. Supporters say highway and transit infrastructure should be handled by the states.

This legislation has been introduced as an option to consider as members of the Senate and House are grappling with a $20 billion transportation shortfall.  Transportation supporters are advocating for an increase in the federal gas tax to close the gap.

Local governments are facing similar issues here in Maryland. Funding for local roadways and bridges has been significantly reduced due to the weak economy and State transportation fund shortages. Although, legislation passed last session, which indexes the State’s motor fuel tax and imposes a sales tax on gasoline, all new revenues have been allocated to State transportation projects and local governments have been statutorily excluded from receiving any of these new revenues. Discussions taking place now seem to be focusing more on enabling local governments to raise their own revenues to maintain and construct local roads and bridges. MACo supports a broad-based and equitable approach to transportation funding and is urging state policy makers to take necessary steps to develop a reasonable, incremental funding strategy which would allow local governments to again share in transportation revenues at some appropriate level.