Highway Bill Needs Real Reform, Not Politics as Usual

Washington, D.C., April 17, 2012—With another Tax Day upon us, taxpayers have something else to worry about: potential action on pending multi-billion dollar highway program reauthorization today in the House of Representatives, says an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

The House is set to consider yet another extension of 2005’s SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law. The current extension, which is the tenth since the law expired in 2009, is set to expire on June 30. While the purpose of today’s Rules Committee hearing is ostensibly to enact another extension to continue existing highway program funding through the rest of Fiscal Year 2012, proponents of the Senate-passed MAP-21 bill are working overtime to push their deeply flawed legislation into conference.

“MAP-21 doubles down on the failed policies that are bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund and merely kicks the can further down the road,” said Marc Scribner, land-use and transportation policy analyst at CEI. “It undoes important bipartisan Transportation Enhancement reforms—meant to limit wasteful, non-highway expenditures of Highway Trust Fund dollars—while relying on one-shot funding gimmicks that do not address any of the existing core fiscal problems.”

The Highway Trust Fund is set to become insolvent in Fiscal Year 2013. Analysts from across the political spectrum have called for major structural reforms to prevent such a scenario from playing out. But, as Scribner argues, few policymakers are calling for needed reforms.

“From the left, the answer is to dramatically increase programmatic spending as well as fuel tax rates,” said Scribner. “From the fiscally conservative position, the answer is to begin devolution of highway funding responsibilities to the states while permitting additional flexibility on tools such as public-private partnerships. But this middle-of-the-road, do-nothing attitude from the Hill—which has included proposals to bail out the Highway Trust Fund with oil and natural gas lease revenue—is completely unacceptable given the importance of mobility to the economy and Americans’ daily lives.”

> Read more by Marc Scribner