There’s a lot of fun happening in the other Washington these days, but this is starting to get ridiculous: Congress doesn’t want to raise the gas tax in order to shore up transportation funding is instead looking at letting investment decline in transportation.
Congress may have to consider a smaller highway-funding bill than initially planned because of a steep drop in revenue from the federal gasoline tax, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Thursday.
Lawmakers haven’t reached a consensus on how to plug the gap. President Barack Obama and leading lawmakers have rejected increasing the 18.4-cent federal tax on a gallon of gas.
Mr. Baucus said that without action, federal aid to states for highway projects would fall to about $28 billion a year from about $42 billion currently.
The gas tax funds not only highway projects, but transit and alternative transportation programs as well. The Obama administration put out a budget with a large transportation increase, which was nice but we knew would never happen. After that, House Budget committee chair Paul Ryan came out with one less than half as large. Now we’re considering cuts of 33% on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.
Reducing transportation investment would be a really sad affair, whether you support roads or transit. This is coming at a time when the “Report Card for Americas Infrastructure” gives the US’s infrastructure a D rating. Being hesitant to raise gas taxes at a time when prices are high and the economy is struggling through an anemic recovery might be good politics, but letting transportation investment decline would be terrible policy. Fortunately some alternatives exist and it’s possible to pay for transportation from the general fund. But it’s not obvious these alone will be enough to make up for so large a decrease in funding, much less the large infrastructure debt, assuming they even get through congress. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to decreased funding, after all, decline is a choice.