Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) today reintroduced H.R. 1737, the Surface Transportation and Taxation Equity (STATE) Act, which returns primary responsibility for transportation and infrastructure projects back to the states without increasing taxes. This legislation would increase the revenue available to states while enabling them to prioritize projects based on safety, traffic needs, and improved commerce without being subject to federal mandates.
"It's time for us to take a fresh approach to highway and infrastructure spending in the United States," said Garrett upon introduction. "There needs to be a new system in place that allows states more discretion over their transportation programs and maximizes the resources available for our transportation system. The STATE Act will do just that -- it will give states the freedom to make highway and infrastructure spending decisions that best suit their individual needs without additional cost to the taxpayer.
The STATE Act will:
* Return primary transportation program responsibility and taxing authority to the states;
* Free up states' transportation dollars from budgetary pressures and big government micromanagement;
* Enable decisions regarding which infrastructure projects will be built, how they will be financed and how they will be regulated to be made by persons best able to make the decisions;
* Eliminate the current system in which a federal gasoline tax is sent to Washington and through a cumbersome Department of Transportation bureaucracy; and
* Prohibit the federal government from forcing unwanted mandates on states by threatening to withhold transportation money.
The original purpose of the National Interstate Highway System was to connect our cities and industrial centers, serve the national defense and to connect us with our neighbors on the continent. The National Interstate Highway System was completed almost 20 years ago, and yet, we continue to spend billions of dollars through the same inefficient, top-down approach that has only increased our nation's road capacity by a paltry 6% even though the number of licensed drivers has increased 21%, registered vehicles are up 31% and the number of miles driven by motorists has risen by 39%.
The past two highway bills have accelerated the current process in which highway and transit funds have largely devolved into mechanisms to give states back the money their residents paid in. Under the current system, federal fuel tax revenue is collected by the IRS and sent to Washington where government bureaucracy determines how much money goes back to each state and in what ways that money can be spent. This allows certain states to benefit at the expense of other states. The STATE Act provides states with the ability to opt-out of the federal surface transportation system by allowing them to raise their own transportation revenue and make all of their own spending decisions.