March 9, 2015
A lot of misinformation and scaremongering swells around transportation infrastructure policy in Washington. We are told our highway network is on the verge of collapse (false), that the federal role is the most critical component of government transportation infrastructure funding (false), and that things will only get worse unless we submit to massive federal gas tax increases (false). To be sure, there are many transportation projects that should be completed over the next two decades. But the “crisis” is politically manufactured. The infrastructure lobby does no one any favors by...
February 12, 2015
Earlier this week, I appeared on a Cato Institute panel organized by Cato’s Matthew Feeney, author of a new report on for-hire vehicle safety issues. Video of the event, which also included Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker, can be found here.
The panel was titled, “How Should Ridesharing Be Regulated?” Naturally, being a general skeptic of regulation, I titled my presentation, “Why Should Ridesharing Be Regulated?” I noted that modern municipal taxicab regulations were crafted by the then-powerful streetcar lobby in response to new competition from jitneys and buses that occurred around 1915. By 1922, the streetcar industry’s main trade association, the American Electric Railway Association, was...
February 4, 2015
The President’s FY 2016 Budget
On Monday, the White House released its DOA FY 2016 budget. Like President Obama’s previous budgets, this one has no chance of going anywhere, with the latest iteration primarily lending itself to lame congressional Republican “Groundhog Day” jokes. The White House is expected to release its updated DOA highway bill, a “GROW AMERICA Act 2.0,” sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, we won’t know in detail the policies the White House hopes to see on surface transportation.
However, we know it will take the form of a six-year, $478 billion reauthorization that will rely on a $238 billion bailout of the Highway Trust Fund to be...
January 29, 2015
It was just announced that Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would introduce the Invest in Transportation Act of 2015. The bill aims to offer an incentive to U.S. companies that are currently keeping $2 trillion in foreign earnings overseas to return some of these earnings. The repatriated earnings would then be subject to a favorable tax rate of 6.5 percent. While tax repatriation may be a good idea, it has nothing to do with infrastructure. Any tax revenue collected on returned overseas earnings should flow into the general treasury, not used to bail out the Highway Trust Fund.
This huge violation of the user-pays/user-benefits principle is surprising given Sen. Paul's reputation as a libertarian-leaning fiscal conservative. The user-pays...
January 26, 2015
The Niskanen Center is a new libertarian think tank that we at CEI look forward to working with on a number of issues. However, one where we are unlikely to agree is on the virtues of a real-world tax on carbon emissions. Sarah E. Hunt had a post last week over at the Niskanen Center's Climate Unplugged blog arguing that Senate EPW chairman Jim Inhofe's recent defense of the federal gas tax as an infrastructure user tax is at odds with his antipathy to a carbon tax.
Now, I have criticized Sen. Inhofe's blindspot on infrastructure spending in the past, as he has long admitted he is "...
January 15, 2015
In recent days, a growing number of congressional Republicans have signaled a willingness to increase the federal excise tax rates on gasoline and diesel. As I noted earlier, there is no fiscal conservative case for raising the federal gas tax. Thankfully, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal this morning decided to inject a much needed dose of fiscal conservatism into the debate, calling for an abolition of federal highway taxes and spending programs:
Some highways do need repair and modernization, and the U.S. does need more roads to relieve congestion...
Automated Vehicles Update: Big Feature at CES, California Rules Delayed, Georgia Cautious on RegulationJanuary 9, 2015
It’s been a few months since I last checked in on automated vehicles (AVs), commonly called driverless cars or autonomous vehicles. Below are some developments of note.
- California misses operations and licensing rule deadline. When the California legislature passed its AV bill in 2012, it ordered that the state Department of Motor Vehicles fully implement it by the end of 2014. While the final rules on testing came into effect in September 2014, the agency announced in late December it would not meet the January 1 deadline to implement its AV operations and...
December 16, 2014
A new poll from Benson Strategy Group and SKDKnickerbocker found that 67 percent of Americans oppose increasing the federal gasoline tax by 15 cents, or an 80 percent increase from the current 18.4 cents per gallon tax. This is broadly in line with previous polls that found Americans strongly oppose fuel tax increases.
But this poll posed a question that is nominally on the table. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Update, Promote, and Develop America's Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act, which would increase the federal gasoline excise tax 14.9...
December 12, 2014
Earlier this week The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell suggested that new entrants in the transportation market, like Uber, should face greater government regulation—despite having fueled much of their initial success by their ability to offer services free of existing taxi regulations. She’s right that commercial enterprises do need a form of regulation that offers corrective discipline, but she’s incorrect that that discipline need be provided by the government.
Market competition itself provides the best corrective to consumer harm and dissatisfaction—if it is allowed to work. Firms in competition with each other must also simultaneously seek the cooperation of their customers,...
December 4, 2014
Yesterday, retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) joined wacky Rep. Earl "United Streetcar" Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to endorse increasing the federal gasoline tax by 80 percent. While it is true that federal fuel excise tax rates have not been increased since 1993, the public, Congress, and the Obama administration remain strongly opposed to gas tax hikes.
Like many Republicans seeking to justify their actions as conservative, the outgoing chairman of the Highways and Transit panel of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure invoked the spirit and deed of former President Reagan to make his case for highway user tax...