Tom Graves: TEA Act Means Better Roads without Raising Taxes
Want better roads for all states without raising taxes?
That’s what Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) 79% promised us at the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit if his bill, the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA) (H.R. 3486) becomes law. He said his bill will “make life better for every day Americans,” and he made a compelling case.
Rep. Graves took us down memory lane to 1956 when the Highway Trust Fund was first created.
The House Ways and Means Committee was debating an innovate way to build six interstates by collecting a 3 percent excise on each gallon of gas that was supposed to sunset after 15 years. In fiscal year 1972, the tax was supposed to drop to 1.5 cents per gallon.
At that time two congressmen said that once the interstate system was built, there was no reason for the tax to be imposed on the people. It’s now up to 18.4 cents per gallon, and we now have 50 interstates.
But instead of ending or becoming smaller, the tax stuck around and increased. Surprise!
How is the money being spent? “In recent years, highway spending has moved well beyond highway,” Rep. Graves said. The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) own reports indicate the federal compliance can add nearly ten years to the approval process of important projects throughout the states.
In many cases, your tax dollars never come back to your state, which means you’re left with potholes and bad roads. Today, there are 37 states that are referred to as donor states; they spend more in taxes and on red tape than they get back.
Rep. Graves’s bill would change that.
Over a five year period, almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs would be transferred to the states. During that time, states would receive block grants that come with less regulation and less red tape. At the end of the five year period, the federal gas tax would be lowered to 3.7 cents per gallon, preserving the original purpose of the federal government’s original involvement in highway funding, such as roads on federal lands and true interstate construction.
The bill would result in $71 billion in savings on the federal level over the next ten years, according to the National Taxpayers Union. States would have much more freedom with regard to how to raise revenue, and state dollars would go further with less federal red tape and delays.