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Transportation Secretary Calls for ‘Long-Term’ Solution to Transpo Funding

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called for Americans across the country to “get a little noisier” on the issue transportation funding Wednesday and asked them to pressure Congress to come up with a long-term solution to the issue.

Foxx approved of the $10.9 billion stopgap lawmakers enacted last week to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent through next May but wants Congress to pass a multi-year bill before the year’s end, Politico Pro reports (sub. req’d).  He said that Americans just need to be given the facts “as we know them.”

If that’s the case, Americans should know that “many individual states are trying to compensate for the lack of congressional action on long term funding by raising additional revenue of their own,” according to Ken Orski of Innovation NewsBriefs.  

Some states have increased local fuel taxes (MD, WY, MA, VT, NH). Others have introduced fuel taxes at the wholesale level (e.g. PA), floated toll revenue bonds (e.g. OH, MA) or raised highway tolls (e.g. DE). Still others have enacted dedicated sales taxes for transportation —as your host state did in November 2012. As  Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) observed, states have become veritable “laboratories for fiscal experimentation.” 

At the local level, things have not been standing still either. A growing number of local jurisdictions are approving bond issues and dedicated sales taxes to support local transportation improvements.

Collectively, these measures are generating billions of additional dollars for state and local transportation programs— and making up for the absence of increased federal funding.

The Associated Press reports that “in the past year and a half, one-fourth of the states have hiked taxes, fees or fines, and at least a dozen others are studying options.”

This activity at the state level mirrors the real debate happening in Congress about the degree of involvement the federal government should have in transportation decisions.

In the long term, Americans will be better off without having to continually bail out the Highway Trust Fund — a goal that can be accomplished by empowering to make their own transportation decisions.

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