Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Congressman Mica Predicts Dramatic Drop In Federal Highway, Transit Funding

                    Florida Congressman John Mica, former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told a meeting of state and local officials gathered in Orlando that they are going to have to find sources of money outside Washington, D. C. to pay for transit and highway construction in their future plans. While touting the $8.4 billion in federal taxpayer dollars funneled to Florida in the recent past to fund major highway, airport and rail transportation projects, Mica told the “Florida Forward” transportation conference that the federal motor fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, last increased in 1993, no longer brings in enough money for road and transit construction.
                    “There is pressure when you’re borrowing 43 cents on every dollar you are spending,” Mica said. “Long term, we’re going to have to do something, since the gas tax is broken.” What he really means is that Congress is politically unable to raise the motor fuel tax rate so long as gasoline and diesel prices remain at current levels. Alternative proposals to force auto and truck owners to automatically report and pay an additional tax on vehicle miles driven have been dead on arrival in Washington.
                    A quick look around the Chicago suburban areas where huge paving contractors are busily at work reveals that Mica may be telling the truth. Most of the billions in road construction work in Illinois which is planned for future years will be done on toll roads paid for by the cars and trucks driving on them, rather than supported by cash from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. What this will mean for the tradespeople and laborers whose livelihood has depended on full employment during the Illinois road building season remains to be seen, but there is no easy solution in view.
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