This MAP-21 transportation reauthorization extends transportation funding and programs for 2 years at a cost of $109 billion. While MAP-21 is earmark free and includes some reforms, it continues to fund the highway, safety, and transit programs at levels in excess of revenues expected from the federal gas tax.
The conservative stance on this kind of bill is at least keeping spending to the level of revenue from the gas tax, thus not endorsing deficits and increased debt. Substantive reforms include devolution or opt-out provisions, empowering states to manage transportation taxes and spending.
We oppose this bill because continuing to fund programs above dedicated revenue sources will inevitably lead to revenue increases (i.e., tax hikes) or bailouts. And while it does not contain earmarks, MAP-21 would reward states whose congressional delegations were successful in obtaining above-the-line-earmarks in SAFETEA-LU by locking in those higher funding levels. Congress should live within its means, as opposed to perpetuating ever growing albeit somewhat streamlined government, and focus on ways to empower states such as opt-out provisions or devolution.
In order to close the funding gap, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) proposed numerous revenue raisers to close the $12 billion shortfall. Some of the revenue raisers are actually tax hikes on drivers – like a "gas guzzler tax" on vehicles that do not meet fuel efficiency standards, which would raise about $697 million over a decade. Others are funding transfers or fee diversions that could cause shortfalls in other government programs, requiring additional deficit spending in the future. As the Congressional Research Service notes, "Using any of these, however, would weaken the claim that road users pay the cost of the federal highway program."
Heritage Action opposes S.1813 and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.