President Obama wants Congress to quickly pass an
unconditioned extension of the federal gasoline tax, which is set
to expire at the end of the government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The federal gas tax has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993
and generates more than $32 billion a year that is then mostly
passed out to states for road construction and repair. About 15
percent goes to other federal efforts, like subsidizing public
transportation or other efforts to discourage driving. The average
American motorist pays about $100 a year in the federal tax.
Conservatives in Congress want to cut out the federal middleman
and allow states to raise and spend their own road money. Not
only would letting states collect the taxes directly reduce the
money spent on federal behavioral engineering efforts (bike paths
etc.), but would also allow states to avoid federal laws that
require union workers be used on highway projects.
House Republicans already made a big change to the way
highway dollars are allocated. Before the 2010 “shellacking” the
Highway Trust Fund was a slushy spot. Influential appropriators
worked hard to get the first spade full of dirt turned over on
decades-long projects in their districts because they knew that
they could, in essence, obligate the federal government. Then
when bills came due, the Trust Fund would have to get a bailout
from general revenues in order to complete already authorized
Under the new Boehner rules, big projects have to be accounted
for. Start a $10 billion project, budget $10 billion.
This has changed the way the highway appropriations process
works. While fewer projects are being started, the intention is that
more will be completed and that costs will be more predictable.
Old-line appropriators resisted, to say nothing of complaints from
contractors and unions who preferred the less-rigid requirements
of the previous process. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/08/31/ob...