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Tolling Provisions in House Transportation Bill "Hidden Tax" on Motorists, Seven-Group Coalition Tells Congress
For Immediate Release March 8, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) -- House Members should reject harmful tolling provisions in the House Transportation Bill (H.R. 3) by adopting an amendment offered by Representatives Mark Kennedy (R-MN) and Adam Smith (D-WA) that would ensure tolls are used to create new road capacity, not fatten government coffers, according to a coalition statement from seven citizen groups today. The 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) helped organize the letter.
"Language now contained in H.R. 3 would allow a new hidden tax on motorists and truckers by forcing Americans who pay gas taxes every time they fill up the tank to pay once again for tolls," the signatories noted. "Tolling does indeed have great promise as a tool for effectively managing traffic flow and road construction, but it must be applied in ways that expand available capacity and create net benefits for motorists and taxpayers."
Specifically, the signatories objected to language that would allow higher fees during peak times (High Occupancy Tolling) on existing roads, let states convert interstates built and maintained with gas taxes into toll roads, and permit tolling to continue indefinitely with no guarantees that revenues are used for needed roads. However, the letter noted that the coalition wasn't "categorically opposed to tolling" if it followed Representative Kennedy's approach of dedicating revenues for additional road capacity and then ending them completely once the capacity had been built.
"In fact, the Kennedy-Smith amendment will actually do far more to relieve congestion than H.R. 3...because the amendment encourages the construction of new tolled capacity nationwide rather than in a handful of 'pilot projects,'" the statement noted. The seven-group coalition -- consisting of the American Conservative Union, Citizen Outreach, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, FreedomWorks, Frontiers of Freedom Foundation, the National Motorists Association, and NTU -- represents a combined membership of millions.
NTU has long been an active participant in the transportation spending debate. In 2004, the group supported Representative Flake's "Transportation Empowerment Act" (H.R. 3113), which would devolve most federal highway functions to the states. In 2003, NTU submitted recommendations to the Joint Economic Committee for maintaining America's transportation infrastructure without raising taxes, such as ending the diversion of gasoline taxes to inefficient mass transit programs, eliminating subsidies that promote ethanol, and allowing new road projects to be built privately and operated by tolls.
"For too long federal transportation policy has focused on Congressionally-directed funding and overlooked the involvement of locally-driven free-market alternatives," said NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing, who organized the coalition. "Congress should make H.R. 3 as taxpayer-friendly as possible, and lawmakers can start by enacting principled tolling provisions."
NTU is a non-profit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. Note: To view the coalition letter and NTU's other work in the area of transportation policy, visit www.ntu.org.