Highway Funding

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Below is a copy of the letter that the Indiana Armstrong Patriots sent to Congressman Bill Shuster and Congressman Mike Kelly encouraging them to vote for the Transportation Empowerment Act.

You can get information on Highway Trust Fund by clicking here.

Dear Representative,

The Indiana Armstrong Patriots voted unanimously in favor of sending this letter to all of our Representatives regarding the Transportation Empowerment Act.

This House Resolution was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Budget Committee and the Ways and Means Committee on November 14, 2013. On November 15, 2013 the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee referred it to the Subcommittee in Highways and Transit.

That was the last action taken on this resolution in the House or the Committees. Why?

The chronic misuse of Highway Trust Fund money should not be tolerated by Congress or the taxpayers.

We have been informed that the Transportation Empowerment Act will be reintroduced in the near future.  We ask that you vote in favor of the resolution for the following reasons;

Status: In May of 2015, the current highway bill (MAP-21), will expire.  To remedy the chronic misuse of highway funds and alleviate the need for period highway bills completely, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) will soon introduce a new way forward: the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA). This bill would return the highway program to local control, empowering local and state governments to carry out projects that best serve their interests, and enhance the efficiency of how money is spent on the nation’s transportation.  Pennsylvania has unique transportation needs that are best served by state authorities.

Pennsylvania’s Highways: Pennsylvania has 40,000 miles of state-maintained highway, and its yearly truck traffic is nearly double the national average. In 2013, Pennsylvania made the fourth-largest contribution to the Highway Trust Fund and was the fifth-largest recipient of federal highway funds.  Like many states, Pennsylvania has also acted on its own to improve its highway network—in 2013, then-Governor Tom Corbett signed a five-year transportation bill that included gasoline tax increases.  While raising taxes was bad public policy, the bill (Act 89) is strong indicator that Pennsylvanians are prepared to take responsibility for their own transportation planning and revenue stream.

Federal Failure: Some claim the status quo benefits Pennsylvania.  But, Pennsylvania’s roads are perennially ranked at or near the bottom in surveys of national highway quality.  In 2014, the Reason Foundation found that Pennsylvania’s highway quality ranked 41st in the country, behind Mississippi.  The Pew Research Center found that, from 2007-2011 (highway data is often time-lagged), only 21% of the state’s transportation funding came from the federal government, the third-lowest proportion out of the 50 states and District of Columbia.  Federal per-capita funding for state roads was also well below average.                             

Local Control: The federal gasoline tax (as well as the tax on diesel and other user fees) and the Highway Trust Fund were intended to finance the completion of the interstate highway system.  That project was completed in the 1980s.

Today, money that states send to Washington gets diverted away from highways.  Diversions include mass transit, transportation alternatives (bike paths, sidewalks, nature paths, etc.), ferry boats, university research, and congestion mitigation.  According to the Heritage Foundation, these diversions amount to 25% of the money states send to the federal government.  In FY2013, Pennsylvanians sent $1.2 billion to the federal government.  Simple math yields $300 million in state gas tax revenue spent on something other than highways, at a stressful time for state budgets.

The Transportation Empowerment Act would eliminate this problem by returning federal gas tax money to the states.  The reform would leave 3.4 cents per gallon in federal hands for maintaining the interstate highway system.  Remaining dollars would stay in Pennsylvania, where local leaders can decide road funding. 

Getting More Per Dollar: Opponents claim that Pennsylvania receives more money from the Highway Trust Fund than it puts in.  This is true, but Pennsylvania’s relative rate of return (1.05), a measure of how much a state pays in to the Trust Fund compared with what they receive back, is well below the national average (1.20). The Transportation Empowerment Act would eliminate the diversions and inequity that enables some states to benefit hugely from federal highway allocations while others lose out.  

The Highway Trust Fund faces recurring funding shortfalls due to the imbalance between the fund’s revenues and spending. Over the last 10 years, the HTF has spent $52 billion more than it has collected. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if spending continues at its current rate, HTF revenues will fall short of projected spending by $157 billion over the next 10 years.

The Indiana Armstrong Patriots ask you to allow the states to keep the majority of the gas tax money and therefore be responsible for their own transportation decisions. We do not want to add any more to our children’s debt by continuing with the same old transportation policies of the past.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter. If you do not support the Transportation Empowerment Act, please reply to the Indiana Armstrong Patriots and explain why.

Sincerely,

The Indiana Armstrong Patriots
724-354-3770