Federal Gov vs. the States: Who Is Best Equipped to Handle Transportation Infrastructure?

As conservatives, we contend that the states are much better equipped to ensure that America has high quality transportation infrastructure than the federal government; the federal government has proven woefully inadequate at both fulfilling this function and at maintaining adequate funds to do so.

Innovation Briefs explains that neither the House nor the Senate has passed a transportation bill, and they have a mere nine legislative days left in September to do so.  Not only this, but as the a July 23 hearing on the Highway Trust fund made painfully clear, neither the government witnesses noe any of the participating members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastrucutre had a clue as to how to pay for the hundreds of billions of dollars that transportation boosters say are needed to fund the next reauthorization of the nest multi-year surface transportation bill, which must be reauthorized by October 2014.

In future years, the Highway Trust Fund will face massive shortfalls, and no one in Congress can knows where the money is supposed to come from. 

However, as Innovation Briefs explains, there is a better way:

Neither the House and Senate members nor the government witnesses have thought of suggesting what is perhaps the most obvious solution to the impending funding crisis:  let individual states bring theirtransportation facilities (including deficient bridges) up to a state of good repair using their regular federal-aid highway funds, supplemented with locally raised revenue. As for large-scale reconstruction and system expansion projects that are beyond the states’ fiscal capacity to fund on a pay-as-you-go basis, let them be financed with long-term credit and private investment capital. While this might  limit new investment to credit-worthy projects (i.e. those that generate revenue or are backed by dedicated taxes or “availability payments”), virtually all transportation megaprojects already fall in that category. 

Moreover, these solutions are already being implemented across the country.  States are partnering with the private sector to get things done.  One short term implication of this is that the states are using more of their own financial resources to meet their own transportation needs, so Congress doesn’t have to.  In addition, in the long term, this will help states become more fiscally autonomous – meaning less need for direct financial aid to state DOTs.

The Heritage Foundation contends that states should have more control over their transportation infrastructure – and they are putting themselves increasingly back in the driver’s seat.  They state:

Given waning HTF funds and budget pressures, states are searching for alternative funding streams. The T&I Committee should not pursue increased or even status quo federal control of transportation policy. It should begin to phase out the federal transit program and further phase out transportation alternatives’ eligibility for federal funding.





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