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Letter


Support Legislation to Give States the Power to Manage Their Gas Tax Dollars!
An Open Letter to the United States Congress:

August 8, 2011

Dear Member of Congress:

On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to support the “State Transportation Flexibility Act.” Introduced as H.R. 1585 by Rep. Lankford (R-OK) and as S. 1446 by Sen. Coburn (R-OK), this legislation would allow states, who better understand their areas’ transportation and infrastructure needs, to manage their Highway Tax revenues without federal interference.

In 1956 the federal government began constructing the Interstate Highway system with a goal of connecting all major metropolitan areas with a network of high-speed roads. To fund the system, Congress established gasoline and other transportation related taxes around the principle of “users-pay/users-benefit.” Over time, however, Congress began to stray from this principle, starting with funding for bus lanes and park-and-ride lots and ultimately, bike paths and historic preservation. Congress also used its leverage over highway funds to force state adherence to costly mandates and other top-down regulations that increased infrastructure costs.

To cut through this inefficient and inequitable system, the State Highway Flexibility Act would allow states to opt out of the Federal Highway program, thus devolving taxing authority and decision-making to the states. This approach would end the inefficient political allocation of federal dollars by allowing state and local planners to determine how money will be spent. The opt-out provision would also diminish Congress’ ability to engage in fiscal pressure tactics that compel states to comply with an array of extraneous regulations. These mandates, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, needlessly drive up the cost of transportation projects and waste precious tax dollars.

State transportation bureaucracies are not necessarily paragons of fiscal virtue. Nonetheless, the concepts embodied in H.R. 1585 and S. 1446 have better promise of delivering value to taxpaying motorists. For one, state and local elected officials – and the agencies they are supposed to oversee – tend to be more proximate to the citizens they serve. Furthermore, those same citizens could take a greater interest in improving transportation efficiency, knowing that their dollars would be spent closer to home. Meanwhile, state and local planners would have much more freedom to innovate, creating the potential for a cross-pollination of ideas that could benefit infrastructure throughout the country

The State Transportation Flexibility Act makes important contributions toward the kind of modern, efficient, and cost-conscious transportation system that will be needed for sustained economic growth. Given that this legislation is focused on providing flexibility to the states, NTU would have preferred that the bill not require states to use a portion of their tax receipts for approved mass transit projects. Nevertheless, NTU applauds the introduction of the State Transportation Flexibility Act and we encourage all Members of Congress to work for its passage.

Sincerely,

Brandon Greife
Federal Government Affairs Manager