As the Senate prepared to vote on keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee proposed transferring a significant amount of discretion over transportation projects back to the states. (RELATED: Highway Trust Fund Almost Broke, Senators Propose Gas Tax)
In its current form, the House transportation bill provides short-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund without reforming the way transportation projects are funded or managed, ensuring that the debate will be continued next year.
Lee would keep the Highway Trust Fund funded through FY 2019 while at the same time allowing states to retain a majority of the money they collect from the gas tax. States would then have discretion over the allocation of transportation dollars, as long as federal funds are not used for the construction phase of a project. (RELATED: Highway Trust Fund in Trouble, 700,000 Jobs on the Ropes)
“The states already own and maintain the roads,” Lee said in a press release. “There is no good reason why they should have to send their citizen’s infrastructure money to Washington first.”
The proposal has attracted support from a number of conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth. Emily Goff, a policy analyst for Heritage, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that, “Congress must wake up to the growing interest among its own ranks and the states to bring transportation funding and spending decisions closer to the people affected by them.” (RELATED: Conservatives Slam Short-Term Fix to Highway Funding)
Lee’s proposal is unlikely to pass, but conservatives hope to start a debate on this issue going forward. The Senate votes on the highway trust fund Tuesday night.
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