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Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity Act
April 4, 2011
The Honorable Scott Garrett
Dear Representative Garrett,
On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write in support of your STATE (Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity) Act. Your legislation would allow states to opt-out of the federal surface transportation system, thereby giving them the power to make their own infrastructure decisions, free from federal micromanagement.
The current system of gas taxes is a bureaucratic mess that often substitutes the priorities of the federal political establishment for the needs of our individual states. Currently, the federal fuel tax is collected by the IRS, sent to Washington to be put into the Highway Trust Fund, and then redistributed to each state. This nonsensical, top-down process allows Washington to pick winners and losers among states. Under the federal formula, areas such as the Pacific Northwest receive more money than they pay in, while states in the Midwest and South are left shortchanged. Your bill would solve this inefficient and inequitable approach by providing states the option of an equal, offsetting federal fuel tax reduction for any future state fuel tax increase.
This approach will allow state and local planners, who better understand their areas’ transportation and infrastructure needs, to prioritize how money will be spent. Currently, 20 percent of the Highway Trust Fund is diverted to non-highway projects (often mass transit), thereby exacerbating the discrepancy in funding between high and low population density states. Your bill would ensure that states can more thoroughly protect their budgets from political pressure by special interests to spend tax dollars on projects that make no fiscal sense.
Furthermore, the STATE Act will limit the federal government’s ability to use the threat of withholding transportation funds to force states to agree to costly mandates. States must spend millions of taxpayer dollars to comply with environmental permits, agree to certain speed limits, and conform to antiquated labor laws, all of which needlessly drive up the cost of transportation projects. Allowing states to substitute their own gas tax would prevent these bureaucratic abuses and afford them the opportunity to create a more modern, efficient, and less costly transportation system
The Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity Act is a vital tool in ensuring taxpayer money is used to maximize the effectiveness of our transportation system rather than greasing the wheels for Washington’s priorities. NTU urges your colleagues to cosponsor the “STATE” Act, and any roll call votes on this legislation will be significantly weighted in our annual Rating of Congress.