Drilling For Highway Trust Fund Dollars

To maintain current transportation spending levels in the new reauthorization bill, Speaker Boehner is proposing a bill to fill the shortfall from projected federal gas tax revenues with the royalties expected from new oil and gas drilling.

Brad Plumer describes in this blog what's being considered by Speaker Boehner to boost spending levels in Transportation Chair John Mica's $230 billion, 6-year transportation bill. House Republicans call it 'energy for infrastructure' that also works as a non-stimulus jobs bill, i.e. not increasing the deficit.

However, Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense notes that "oil and gas royalties are currently used to fund other parts of government. "This is revenue that's supposed to go to the general fund," says . So if the bill just uses existing royalties, it will increase the deficit."

Furthermore, in Environment & Energy Daily's: Boehner moving forward with energy-for-infrastructure plan (subscription), Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), a former deputy Interior secretary notes some of those additional sources, including "conservation purposes, parks, water conservation or energy conservation, renewables".

From Speaker Boehner's Blog: House GOP to Move Jobs Bill Linking Increased American Energy Production to Infrastructure Reform: "In the coming weeks, House Republicans will formally introduce an energy & infrastructure jobs bill, and hope to move the legislation through the House before the end of the year."

Plumer also provides "A short history of America's gas tax woes" beginning in 1982, when President Reagan initially refused to increase the gas tax, but working with Democrats settled on a 5-cent gas tax increase "in order to bankroll a 'massive reparation of the nation's bridges and roads'."

Thanks to Loren Spiekerman

Full Story: Gas-tax aversion is tying Congress in knots

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Irvin Dawid's picture
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Boxer Nixes "Drilling For Transpo $, as do others

Proving herself to be one of the most reliable sources of federal transportation legislation news, Tanya Snyder provides links to key articles on the Streetsblog Capitol Hill Headlines page - this from 11/19:

"Senator Boxer wrote: "As I have stated many times, we need to pay for the surface transportation bill in a way that is not contentious and does not threaten jobs. The proposal by Republican leadership would mire a very popular surface transportation bill in controversy, and it would directly threaten many thousands of fishing, tourism, and recreation-related jobs....continues.

Even her Republican counterpart, while officially welcoming Speaker Boehner's proposal, subtly indicated it wouldn't solve the current shortfall problem facing the transportation reauthorization bill. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) wrote: "While Speaker Boehner's idea may be a long-term revenue source for transportation infrastructure, we need to focus on the immediate problem of how we will fund a multi-year highway bill.

"The bottom line is this: The highway bill is a crucial jobs bill and we need to get to conference as soon as possible - and if this is how the House is able to move the bill forward then I applaud them. But we need money now for transportation; we can't afford to wait. ###"

And this from the Open Market. org blog for the Competitive Market Institute that points to "the long-run dangers of moving from the current (and longstanding) “user-pays” principle to a “taxpayer-pays” principle. They ought to pay more attention to the concerns of free market transportation scholars, such as the Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole and the Independent Institute’s Gabriel Roth" who wrote Drilling is a bad way to pay for roads.

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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