An implicit principle in a democracy is that the officials who decide how your taxes are spent represent you, the taxpayers, and not the bureaucracies that receive your taxes. But Congress violated this principle when it wrote MAP-21, the 2012 transportation law. As detailed in a proposed rule earlier this month, the law gives transit agencies in major urban areas a vote on how much of each region’s transportation dollars are spent on transit.
The Highway Trust Fund will be out of money in a few months, mainly because Congress insists on spending more than it takes in. To avert this supposed crisis, Republican leaders are proposing to cut Saturday deliveries of mail and use the savings to replenish the trust fund.
If you are interested in financial markets, Cato has an interesting forum tomorrow on bank runs. But if you are more interested in highways and spending, you can catch me at this Heritage forum tomorrow on the Hill.
Infrastructure is in the news as policymakers face a deadline to pass a new highway bill. President Obama visited the Tappan Zee Bridge yesterday and said that “rebuilding America … shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” and then cast blame on the Republicans.
Congress is currently debating options to solve the “transportation cliff.” Broadly, the federal government spends more on highways and transit than it collects in fuel tax revenue, which has depleted the Highway Trust Fund. One reason for the imbalance is the federal government’s inability to control costs on projects. Federal transportation projects frequently go over budget.
Recent news reports have zeroed in on Washington’s next “cliff,” the “transportation cliff” that is expected to happen when the federal Highway Trust Fund runs out of money sometime this summer. Most of those articles have a hidden agenda: to increase spending for transit even though transit now gets 20 percent of federal surface transport dollars but carries little more than 1 percent of the travel carried by automobiles (about 55 billion passenger miles by transit vs. 4.3 trillion passenger miles in cars and light trucks). This post will explain some of the politics of the transportation cliff.
Chris Edwards testified yesterday to the Senate Finance Committee regarding federal highway and transit funding. Some thoughts.
With the expiration of the current federal highway bill in a few months, the infrastructure issue is heating up. Newspapers are ginning up interest with stories about deficient and falling down bridges.
Oh dear, yet another scare story about falling-down bridges. A Washington Post headline today in the hardcopy is “63,000 Bridges Structurally Deficient, U.S. Says.”
My op-ed in today’s New York Times has prompted numerous critical comments on theNYT website. Let me address some of them.