Free Congress Report Says Devolution of Federal Transportation Program Results in Less Investment in Our Infrastructure and Tax Increases at State Level
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2015—Today, the Free Congress Foundation (FCF), a non-profit, public policy research and education organization, released a report which makes the case that any devolution of federal transportation programs would contradict conservative principles. While devolution would reduce the federal fuel tax, it would inevitably produce tax increases at the state level. In addition, the U.S. Constitution explicitly bestows Congress with the power to invest in transportation infrastructure, and Congress has continuously carried out that responsibility – from the time of our nation’s founding through the present day.
The FCF hosted its fifth annual Capitol Hill Briefing to share a new report, “The Case Against Transportation Devolution: A Conservative Perspective.” James S. Gilmore III, former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1998- 2002) and current President and CEO of the FCF, joined Michael Melaniphy, American Public Transportation President & Chief Executive Officer, in discussing the harm caused to States in the full or partial devolving of federal highway and transit programs and the need for a continuing federal role in American transportation.
“We at the Free Congress Foundation recognize, as we always have, the connection between viable transportation networks and healthy economic growth. We must work together to address these challenges and remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Gilmore.
With less than a week before Congress is set to recess, federal transportation funding in the form of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) is set to expire on May 31st. Several devolution proposals introduced in Congress as possible solutions would eliminate federal funding for public transportation, transferring power or responsibility to a more local level of government. These proposals would cause serious damage to the nation’s transportation networks, resulting in a substantial strain on the economy and a horde of other severe problems, according to the report from Jack Schenendorf, Counsel with Covington & Burling, who provided commentary alongside U.S. Department of Transportation Undersecretary Peter Rogoff, Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3).
The analysis reaches a series of overarching conclusions in regards to the loss of federal funds and the role of the federal government in national public transportation investment:
- Robust, interconnected, and modern transportation networks are essential to America’s prosperity;
- Our transportation networks are under great strain today due to age and inadequate capacity, and those pressures will grow substantially in the years ahead as our population expands and as competition from foreign entities stiffens;
- Devolving federal transportation programs would worsen the situation, decreasing the amount of funding available for restoration and construction projects, eliminating transit options, and encouraging states to pursue local goals rather than national priorities;
- Therefore, devolution would represent an uncharacteristic departure from tradition rather than a return to one of the Federal government’s original role and purpose.
The report concluded that devolution would inevitably result in less funding nationwide for highway and transit projects than current federal law provides, as some states “would find it impossible to increase their gasoline taxes by enough to offset the loss of federal funds, while others would be unable to borrow or spend enough to complete major projects, and still others would be barred by the state constitution from spending the money they do have on transit.”
To read the analysis go to www.freecongress.org/