Tags: gas tax | highways | bridges | roads | highway trust fun

AFP Director: Make Sure Highway Trust Goes to Roads

Image: AFP Director: Make Sure Highway Trust Goes to Roads
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By    |   Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:17 PM

Before Congress decides to increase the gas tax, it should first make sure that the Highway Trust Fund actually goes toward fixing roads and highways, according to Mac Zimmerman of Americans for Prosperity.

"You’d think that after the phrase 'bridge to nowhere' became synonymous with Washington’s waste and excess, lawmakers would avoid anything reminiscent of that misbegotten spending project in Alaska," Zimmerman, who is the policy director for AFP, wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.

"But now we have the 'Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act,' which is nowhere near as worthwhile as its bipartisan sponsors in the House would like Americans to think," he contends.

Republican Reps. Jim Renacci of Ohio and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin along with Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Dan Lipinski of Illinois have authored what has been called the measure that would increase the gas tax to help fund transportation projects.

While Zimmerman says that the goal of the bill is to "address the impending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, whose problems are, admittedly, pressing," it does so by indexing the gas tax for inflation, which guarantees yearly tax increases.

"It also provides for additional and more dramatic gas-tax hikes — potentially reaching as high as 42 percent — if Congress does nothing else to refill the Highway Trust Fund’s expected $168 billion shortfall," he adds.

The AFP policy director says that other things ought to be considered first before raising taxes, such as where money from the Highway Trust Fund actually goes.

Zimmerman cites an analysis done by the Heritage Foundation in 2013, which found that "at least 20 percent of gas-tax revenues in recent years went toward other programs, from light rail to bike lanes to landscaping projects. Some funds even went toward establishing transportation museums."

The Wall Street Journal argued in an editorial in January that there has been almost a 40 percent increase in spending on such projects since 2008. During the same period, spending on highway-related projects remained flat.

"If Congress directed the fund to spend its money only on highways and other road-related infrastructure — what it was initially created to do — it would be 98 percent solvent for the next decade," Zimmerman said.

He also recommends streamlining the regulatory process that contractors must go through to complete highway projects, which "can require up to 200 regulatory steps and take between nine and 19 years to complete."

"Even small projects can take between four and six years from start to finish," he said. Reforming this process will "save taxpayers time and money."

Raising gas taxes will only hurt the relief that middle-class Americans are feeling at the pump "as they devote the highest share of their household spending to gasoline," Zimmerman added.

The Highway Trust Fund was set to run out Sunday, but Congress has passed a two-month extension, which leaves the matter to be addressed this summer.

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Before Congress decides to increase the gas tax, it should first make sure that the Highway Trust Fund actually goes toward fixing roads and highways, according to Mac Zimmerman of Americans for Prosperity.
gas tax, highways, bridges, roads, highway trust fun
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2015-17-26
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:17 PM
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