Over at Complete Colorado, the Independence Institute’s Dennis Polhill writes in support of a proposal to devolve the lion’s share of the federal gas taxing authority back to the states, and remove federal restrictions on the states:
The Transportation Empowerment Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., gradually would lower the federal gas tax from the current 18.4 cents to 3.7 cents per gallon over five years. The legislation also would lift federal restrictions on state departments of transportation.
Not only would devolving the federal gas tax to the states result in a major boon to Colorado roads and bridges, it also would honor a promise made to the American people more than 50 years ago. In 1956, Congress passed the National Defense Highway Act to construct the Interstate Highway system. The temporary federal gas tax was promised to expire when construction was completed.
For all practical purposes, interstate highway construction was finished in 1982. Unfortunately, taxes almost never go away, or get smaller. Nor do government agencies or programs. Coincidentally, 1982 marks the same year roads outside the interstate system became eligible for federal funding. By tripling eligible mileage, the U.S. Department of Transportation used road revenues to fund other things more aggressively. Increasing amounts of gas tax revenue were siphoned to fund non-road programs, and congressional earmarks mushroomed.
For Colorado voters, the salient point is that we’ve been shorted on the deal, sending five cents per gallon to Washington that we never see back. There was a time when federal development of large-scale road projects made sense, in order to avoid things like the Kansas Turnpike dead-ending in an Oklahoma field, because Oklahoma couldn’t get its act together:
But given that much of this money isn’t going to roads any more, anyway, putting an end to the Colorado-DC-Colorado round trip makes sense.
It’s certainly better than this monstrosity from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that would add 15 cents to the federal gas tax in order to make up for the money that they’re siphoning off to pet projects, a prospect he doesn’t want to admit to: