A Conservative Critique of House Republican Transportation Proposal

Image: Mike Licht NotionsCapitol.com

A free-market (some would say conservative) public policy group believes the transportation proposal from the House Republicans is “shortsighted.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) likes tying the transportation bill to expanding energy production, and directing some of the resulting revenue to transportation.  What CEI doesn’t like is that the revenue would be deposited in the highway trust fund.  More specifically, CEI objects to the highway trust program providing funding to transit projects:

“Since the early 1980s, mass transit systems been receiving revenue generated by highway users. Through the Highway Trust Fund’s Mass Transit Account, as well as the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and the Surface Transportation Program, transit now gobbles up about 20 percent of these revenues — robbing Peter the driver to pay for Paul’s train ticket. While transit users certainly pay far too little in fares to support the current systems, many arguably pay too much for the services they receive. Most municipalities prohibit flexible, smaller, private paratransit service, and states and municipalities have a strong political incentive to burn through as much federal grant money as possible and “invest” in the most expensive transit options available — which means underused high-capacity buses and extremely expensive and inflexible rail transit.”

CEI comments that what Republicans fail to appreciate is

“the long-run dangers of moving from the current (and longstanding) “user-pays” principle to a “taxpayer-pays” principle.” The myopic Republican plan to partially fund transportation improvements through oil and gas lease revenues — breaking with the long-established “user-pays” principle — will almost certainly increase political manipulation of transportation investments in the future, thereby increasing waste, fraud, and abuse.”

House Republicans’ Shortsighted Proposal to Fund Roads through More Drilling ,” Competitive Enterprise Institute