U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to come to the table and work on a bipartisan basis to pass a robust multi-year highway bill. This passage would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and be a real stimulus to the economy. The Transportation Department estimates that for every $1 billion the federal government invests in highways and bridges, 34,800 jobs are created or maintained. Highway projects worth more than $47 billion are ready to go, according to state departments of transportation. And, it would be paid for by increasing the gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993 and is actually a user fee.
President Reagan was faced with a similar situation in 1982, when the nation was facing record unemployment--above 10 percent. During the lame duck session, the Reagan Administration proposed a gas tax increase, and subsequently, Congress passed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 which provided a five-cent gas tax increase. The American people think that they are already paying increased gas taxes. In 2009, Building America's Future conducted a poll, which found that 60 percent of Americans believe that the federal gas tax has been increased every year. But, the gas tax has not been indexed to inflation so its purchasing power has declined by 33 percent since it was last increased in 1993.
Senator Voinovich spoke about this issue this morning on FOX Business Network. Click here to view the interview.
August 31, 2010
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I want you to know that I understand you have the weight of the world on your shoulders; things are more challenging now for our country than at any time during my life. Americans are worried about our Nation's future and their own personal well-being, and this worry has resulted in a level of fear unlike anything I have seen since my memory of the Second World War.
People are quite unhappy with Washington because it appears to them that we do not understand their concerns. They, frankly, cannot understand why we will not get our collective act together to address what worries them. There are certainly looks of disbelief when Americans hear that last year we borrowed 41 cents of every dollar we spent.
That being said, we still have an opportunity to restore their faith in their government by coming together before the end of the year to begin to address our Nation's economic crisis. One example of how we can do this is by working with the debt commission you created by Executive Order to deal with our unsustainable debt and deficits.
Another thing we can do is to reauthorize the surface transportation bill. This past July, T. Peter Ruane, President of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), sent you a letter highlighting the importance of passing a transportation reauthorization bill this year. Mr. Ruane stated that uncertainty in our market regarding future federal surface transportation funding has caused many states to put on the brakes with regards to job creating transportation projects. In many states, these projects are not moving into either private-sector design or construction markets, resulting in a lack of hiring and the decline of large capital equipment purchases. Many construction-related firms have worked down most of their project backlog with little new work available for bid. In addition, Mr. Ruane's letter reports that 30 states and the District of Columbia invested less in highway and bridge contract awards from January to June 2010 than they did over the same period last year.
I am not alone in arguing that a robust surface transportation reauthorization is critically important and must be undertaken as quickly as possible. Although I agree with you that bipartisan support is hard to come by these days, the vital significance of this bill is recognized by my colleagues in the Senate. Senators Boxer, Inhofe, and Baucus and our staffs are working full time to get a bill done this year on a bipartisan basis. Daily, our staffs are putting in many hours drafting this bill. The House of Representatives has been working on reauthorization for two and half years, and the House bill has been voted out of subcommittee. Mr. President, you cannot show me another piece of legislation that we can get passed before the end of the year that has the bipartisan support of labor, manufacturing, business, truckers, and state and local groups, as well as from Congress. A copy of those supporting reauthorization, and paying for it by increasing the gas tax which has not been increased since 1993, is enclosed.
I understand that because of the gnashing of teeth about who will control Congress that a vote on reauthorization will not likely occur before November elections, but to get this bill done before the end of the year requires your leadership, so I urge you to help us pass this important legislation much like President Reagan did in 1982. Without your support, it will surely not get done this year, and God only knows what the negative impact on our country will be.
George V. Voinovich
United States Senator
P.S. Enclosed is a summary prepared by the Congressional Research Service that explains how President Reagan passed a similar bill after the 1982 midterm elections.