Heavy Duty Trucking

OCT 2014

The Fleet Business Authority

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12 HDT • OCTOBER 2014 www.truckinginfo.com a Transport interests attack conservatives' highway bill WASHINGTON Oliver B. Patton • Washington Editor WASHINGTON report A bid by conservatives in the House and Senate to ef- fectively eliminate the federal highway program is drawing fire from American Trucking Associations and other trans- portation interests. The Transportation Em- powerment Act, sponsored by five senators and 52 represen- tatives, would devolve control over highways and transit from the federal government to the states. It also would lower the federal gas tax from 18.4 to 3.7 cents a gallon, and the diesel tax from 24.3 cents to 5 cents. During a five-year transi- tion period, the states would receive federal block grants with fewer federal require- ments than are now in place. On the Senate side, the bill is championed by Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Ron Johnson, R- Wis., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Among the sponsors in the House are Reps. John Mica, R-Fla., former chair- man of the Transportation and Infrastructure Commit- tee, and Michele Bachman, R-Minn. Supporters of the bill contend that it would re- duce the red tape that can slow up projects, give states more flexibility to levy taxes and create jobs. ATA and its allies said the bill is "ill-conceived." By stripping federal funding from transportation it would virtually eliminate the federal government's constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce, the groups said. Moreover, "The bill reduces funding for the federal- aid highway program by more than 80% by 2019 … with no consideration of the impact on state and local governments or private indus- try." It also would eradicate the federal transit program. The groups acknowledge that some rules may slow down highway construction projects. "However, these challenges do not warrant putting the safety of motorists and the health of the nation's econo- my at risk by decimating the primary funding program for our nation's most critical infrastructure," they say in their letter to Congress. Another problem with devolution is that the money now in the Highway Trust Fund would simply go away, they add. States would have to replace it by raising tens of billions of dollars in taxes or taking the money from other uses. If states opted to raise their own fuel taxes, the aver- age levy would go up by 16 cents a gallon and some states would have to go as high as 30 cents, the groups said. "Devolution represents abandonment by Congress of its constitutional obliga- tion to promote interstate commerce and would prove disastrous to state and local governments' ability to maintain and improve their transportation systems." Devolution is not a solution, but a distraction from the ongoing debate over how to pay for national infra- structure, the groups said. Joining ATA are 16 national groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Highway Users Alliance, AAA and the American Society of Civil Engineers. "Devolution represents abandonment by Congress of its constitutional obligation to promote interstate commerce." PHOTO © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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