In order to “address our insolvent transportation program and end the taxpayer bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund,” Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has introduced a bill to let states “opt out” of the federal transportation program altogether.
In true devolutionist fantasy style, Garrett says he wants to give states the option to forgo their transportation allocations and keep the 18.4 cents per gallon that now is charged as a federal tax.
It harkens back to the old griping from “donor” states that they pay more in gas taxes than they get back in formula funds, only there’s no such thing as a donor state anymore because of the constant stream of federal bailouts. Garrett says that’s the target of his bill.
“For our children and our grandchildren’s future, we must put an end to Washington bailouts,” said Garrett upon introducing the bill. “On top of the bailouts to the banks and car companies, the hardworking American taxpayers have bailed out the Highway Trust Fund no less than three times over the last five years. It must stop.”
Garrett’s press release also notes that MAP-21 provided for $18.8 billion more from the general fund in 2013 and 2014.
He says letting states opt out of the federal program would “free up states’ transportation dollars from federal micromanagement” – though MAP-21 gave states an even longer leash than they’d asked for.
Giving states sole authority over the nation’s infrastructure is a funny way to “solve” the infrastructure funding problem. First of all, the recession has been brutally hard on states, forcing cuts to just about every program, no matter how essential. Second, virtually all states are constitutionally bound to balance their budgets. Maybe that’s Garrett’s big idea – states can’t run up deficits like the feds can, so let the states handle it. That’s a recipe for either massive cuts in infrastructure spending – fresh on the heels of the latest D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers – or tax hikes.
Garrett’s bill is almost definitely going nowhere (he introduced the same bill two years ago, and it died without any serious consideration), but it would be interesting to consider what would happen if his home state opted out of the federal transportation program.