Issue Profile: the Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity (STATE) Act

May 09, 2012

Championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Interstate Highway System achieved its goal of connecting Americans from one coast to the other. But it was complete 20 years ago, yet, as we have come to know in Washington, a federal government is never over and no goal is ever fully achieved.

Now, the federal government continues to control much of the highway and infrastructure funding. States wait on the federal government to first take their money and then dole it back to them using outdated and complicated models. It is an outdated and unnecessary system.

Instead of the federal government deciding which states receive what amount of money, why not allow the states to keep their own tax money? Makes sense, right? Well Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has introduced a bill that would allow states to reclaim the primary responsibility for infrastructure and transportation spending back to the states. The Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity (STATE) Act (H.R.1737) would not raise taxes, and would allow states to prioritize projects according to their needs, not the political whims of Washington central planners. According to Representative Garrett's website, the STATE Act will:

  • Return primary transportation program responsibility and taxing authority to the states;
  • Free up states' transportation dollars from budgetary pressures and big government micromanagement;
  • Enable decisions regarding which infrastructure projects will be built, how they will be financed and how they will be regulated to be made by persons best able to make the decisions;
  • Eliminate the current system in which a federal gasoline tax is sent to Washington and through a cumbersome Department of Transportation bureaucracy; and
  • Prohibit the federal government from forcing unwanted mandates on states by threatening to withhold transportation money.

Upon introducing the bill last May, Rep. Garrett released the following statement:

"It's time for us to take a fresh approach to highway and infrastructure spending in the United States. There needs to be a new system in place that allows states more discretion over their transportation programs and maximizes the resources available for our transportation system. The STATE Act will do just that - it will give states the freedom to make highway and infrastructure spending decisions that best suit their individual needs without additional cost to the taxpayer."

Previous highway bills - including the one being discussed right now in a conference committee - continue the Washington status quo of increased spending and increased dependence on the federal government. Representative Garrett's STATE Act provides states the choice to keep their own money and not rely on Congress passing a transportation bill before they can repair their infrastructure.