In his analysis published today, August 31, on Fox News, titled “Obama picks gas Tax for First Round of Fiscal Fight” Chris Stirewalt posed reasons why President Obama’s call for a “clean extension” of the transportation bill may be hard to pass in Congress. That transportation bill adds a federal tax on gas of 18.4 cents a gallon and has been in effect since 1993.
Stirewalt pointed out that conservatives hope to cut out the federal middleman in order to allow states to control their own share of the tax. The transportation tax generates more than $30 billion annually for roads.
Most of the funds collected are distributed to states for road construction and repair; however, about 15% is spent on select federal projects which Stirewalt says includes, among other projects
- Subsidizing public transportation
- Federal grants to states for bike trails
- Other behavioral engineering projects which states might nix
Stirewalt points out that conservatives think that states could spend the gas tax more wisely than the federal government. A couple of fiscal advantages he pointed to in the article included that :
- States could appropriate all of the funds to the areas most needed – placing a higher priority on a bridge than on a bicycle path
- States could save money by bypassing federal laws requiring union workers on highway projects
Stirewalt explains that conservatives have already impacted how the transportation money is spent. Under a new measure, dubbed the “Boehner rules,” big projects must be balanced. In his op-ed, Stilewart points out that projections for costly highway plans must now be priced out and the funds budgeted for that project. As Stilewart succinctly puts it, “Start a $10 billion project, budget $10 billion.”
Stilewart concludes that in today’s speech, President Obama was joined with the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO , in support of his call for a “clean” extension of the tax bill. However, when viewers watch that speech, Stilewart hopes they will remember that the motive behind the support is “maintaining the status quo”, not getting the most for taxpayer dollars – because
“The large contractors and big unions have always shared an interest in maintaining the status quo. When tax advocates say “even the Chamber of Commerce favors increasing the gas tax” they act as if it were the Club for Growth. The Chamber represents its members, not a particular point of view, and its members like federal highway spending.”
With union leader, President Richard Trumka, and construction workers at his side in the Rose Garden, the president suggested clean passage of the transportation bill could prevent job losses, adding that “For construction workers and their families across the country, it represents the difference between making ends meet or not making ends meet.”