Are Democrats on the Highway to Federalism?

Earlier this week we highlighted the trend of individual states taking initiative on their own transportation infrastructure needs.  Politico reports (sub. req’d) that some leading Democrats are looking to the States for a solution to the nation’s infrastructure needs now too:

Leading Democrats trying to pinpoint a long-term fix for the nation’s infrastructure funding woes may not have found a solution, but they have settled on where to look: Annapolis, Richmond, Cheyenne and Montpelier.

The liberal embrace of federalism comes about 14 months before the Highway Trust Fund [HTF] runs out of cash. Since 2008, Congress has repeatedly tried and failed to find a plan to replace the fund’s dwindling gas tax revenue. (emphasis added)

They are onto something.  We’ve noted:

The bottom line is that federal lawmakers should give states flexibility to take care of themselves, rather than tying them down with regulations and mandates. It is encouraging that many states aren’t waiting for the federal government to get its act together, but ultimately we need Congress to turn back authority to the states.

Politico notes that as the HTF runs out of cash, Republican-led states, like Wyoming and Virginia, have been passing measures to raise transportation revenue.  They add:

Two Democrats with critical roles in crafting next year’s highway bill have suggested following those leads, but it won’t be as simple as copy-and-pasting state legislative texts.

The States have different options, options that may be amendable to their constituents but not amenable to all Americans. Congress would have a difficult time convincing Americans that a federal gas-tax hike is a good idea.  State legislatures will likely have a tough time convincing conservatives a state gas-tax hike is a good idea, but that is the proper place to have the debate.

The main takeaway here is that it’s good the States are taking initiative; even Democrats are beginning to see the necessity of this practice.  The federal government’s role in infrastructure has grown even though the States and localities are best equipped to meet the needs of their citizens.

Conservatives believe that there should be no more General Fund transfers to the HTF and authority for transportation spending should be turned back to the states.  The States aren’t waiting, and neither should Congress.

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