States Considering Highway Funding Options
Photo: U.S.House T&I Committee
While Capitol Hill may yet again slap an eleventh-hour cold patch on the highway-funding gap
, state governments are moving ever more quickly and innovatively to put their infrastructure spending in order.
Even bonding is on the table in one statehouse. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016-17 budget proposal includes borrowing $1.3 billion to pay for road work. This week, members of the legislature’s legislature's budget committee questioned the logic of the approach, arguing that the state’s payments will outlive the affected projects by decades.
Joint Finance Committee members from both parties questioned DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb on the long-term impact of bonding such construction.
Gottlieb responded, according to an Associated Press news report, that bonding was required because the governor doesn't want to hike the state’s fuel tax and vehicle registration fees. In addition, he argued that interest rates on bonding are currently favorable right now.
Gottlieb conceded that highways will continue to deteriorate under the bonding plan. However, he claimed that if the amount to be borrowed is cut, the roads will fail even faster, resulting in higher costs later.
Meanwhile, raising the fuel tax is not only in play in Louisiana, a legislative task force has concluded that the state should allow municipalities the option of imposing their own gas taxes. That’s just one of over a dozen proposals to increase financing and upgrade the state’s transportation infrastructure included in the task force’s final report, which was issued this week.
Other ideas offered include tying the state fuel tax to the rate of inflation and considering the establishment of public-private partnerships for funding and building infrastructure.
The report should garner attention in the statehouse. Louisiana now faces a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge projects, according to a news report posted by HoumaToday.com.
Then there’s the question being discussed coast to coast of whom should toll. Discussing that topic recently, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that he favors changing federal law to afford state governments the “freedom to choose” to implement tolled highways.