Bill to allow states to manage highway revenue

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), David Vitter (R-LA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives James Lankford (R-OK) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) today introduced the State Transportation Flexibility Act that would allow state transportation departments to opt out of the Federal-Aid Highway and Mass Transit programs.  Instead, these states would be able to manage and spend the gas tax revenue collected within their state on transportation projects without federal mandates or restrictions.  In addition to the 14 Senators and 24 Representatives co-sponsoring this bill, it has received support from numerous national organizations and state officials including endorsements from Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) and Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation, Gary Ridley.

“Washington’s addiction to spending has bankrupted the Highway Trust Fund.  For years, lower-priority projects like earmarks have crowded out important priorities in our states, such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges.  Instead of burdening states and micromanaging local transportation decisions from Washington, states like Oklahoma should be free to choose how their transportation dollars are spent.  I have no doubt that Oklahoma’s Transportation Director Gary Ridley will do a much better job deciding how Oklahoma’s transportation dollars are spent than bureaucrats and politicians in Washington,” said Dr. Coburn.

“This has been one of my top priorities since coming to Congress, and I’m happy to join Senator Coburn in this effort. This bill is a giant step for states by increasing transportation flexibility while improving efficiency,” said Representative Lankford. “By allowing states to opt-out of the federal bureaucracy, they will be able to take more control of their own resources. It will free Oklahoma to keep our own federal gas taxes and to fund new projects at our own discretion.”

“As a Federalist, I have long advocated that states should retain the right to keep the revenue from gas taxes paid by drivers in their own state, said Senator McCain.  “This bill would allow for this to happen and prevent Arizonans from returning their hard earned money to Washington.  Arizonans have always received 95 cents or less for every dollar they pay federal gas taxes.  This continues to be unacceptable, and for that reason I am a proud supported of the State Highway Flexibility Act.”

“Any time you can eliminate a layer of federal bureaucracy from the states’ ability to govern is a good thing,” said Senator Vitter. “It’s very apparent how badly Congress can mismanage tax dollars, especially the Highway Trust fund which has needed to be bailed out three times since 2008. The states know their transportation needs better than Congress, so let’s put them in the driver’s seat to manage their own gas tax.”    

“The federal government’s one-size-fits all transportation policies and mandates are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and causing inexcusable delays in the construction of highways, bridges and roads in Utah and across the nation,” Senator Hatch said. “It is time to unshackle the states to let them manage their own gas tax dollars. They can do a much better job than the federal government, which is fraught with waste and mismanagement.”

“The federal transportation system has become emblematic of Washington’s inefficiencies and reckless spending habits. I am happy to support this bill that helps to cut government waste and streamline an overly burdensome federal transportation funding process. It will provide Texas more flexibility to make transportation decisions locally and encourage innovative solutions to addressing our transportation infrastructure needs” said Senator Cornyn.

“For too long Georgia has been burdened with the inefficiencies imposed on our state by numerous provisions of federal law and onerous regulations.   This legislation ensures that federal highway and transit funds in our state will be used more efficiently” said Senator Isakson. “The federal government has not spent Highway Trust Fund dollars wisely; therefore, it makes complete sense to allow Georgia and all states to decide how to allocate these funds—without red tape—to better meet our state’s unique transportation needs.”

“For too long, Indiana has been a donor state and sent more gas tax dollars to Washington than it has received back,” Senator Coats said. “This isn’t fair to Hoosier taxpayers, which is why I support the State Highway Flexibility Act. Hoosiers know our state’s transportation needs better than bureaucrats in Washington, and Indiana should be able to control its own resources.”

“By allowing Utah the ability to opt out of the Federal-aid Highway program and keep all excise tax revenue collected with our state, the decision making authority is being returned to Utah. It gives the state greater ability to choose how and where the money is spent and choose which projects will benefit our state the most” said Senator Lee.  “Additionally, since this bill removes all Federal restrictions on the use of these funds, other than being required to be used for transportation related projects, Utah will no longer be at the mercy of every federal agency, including the EPA, to receive these funds. This will expedite every project and will make the use of these funds significantly more cost effective.”

“By allowing states to assume discretionary transportation authority, local transportation decisions would be made at the local level, not by the federal government,” said Representative Flake. “It makes no sense for states, like Arizona, to continue to send gas tax revenue to Washington, only to have a portion of that money return, along with restrictions on how we can spend it.”

“An efficient transportation system is necessary to help get Ohio’s economy back on track.  Too often, Ohio has its hands tied by burdensome mandates and strings attached to federal funds for roads and bridges, and Ohio gas taxes are used for projects in other states.  With tightening budgets, now more than ever we need to provide states with the ability to quickly and innovatively implement their transportation priorities to help create jobs,” said Senator Portman.