Posted: 5:04 pm Monday, February 10th, 2014

Tom Graves: Slash the federal gas tax to cure transportation woes 

By Daniel Malloy

WASHINGTON – As the Snowjam and its looming cousin have spurred debate on the Atlanta region’s transportation system, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves’ plan would just about remove the federal government from the equation.

The Ranger Republican pitched his bill to a friendly audience at the Heritage Action for America conservative policy summit Monday, a daylong affair promoting Republican bills that also included Rep. Tom Price of Roswell discussing health care.

Graves’ transportation plan – an outline he inherited from Sen. Jim DeMint when DeMint left the Senate and went to run Heritage — would slash the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon.

The states, then, could make up the difference in any way they like — replace the gas tax, put in toll roads, create a new consumption tax such as the T-SPLOST. That is, if they could pass any of those things.

So what’s wrong with having the federal government involved in transportation? Graves argued the feds spend too much on non-road improvements such as beautification. He’s all for bike lanes, but says those decisions should be made at the local level.

“Potholes and unfixed roads are there today because in many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states,” Graves said.

Georgia in the past has been a “donor state,” providing more to the federal government in gas tax dollars than it gets back in road money. But since 2007, the federal government has made sure all states get more transportation money back from the feds than the gas taxes they put in, by taking money from the general fund for the highway trust fund.

The highway bill is due for re-authorization this year, and Graves said he hopes the idea can get in the policy bloodstream before then. The transportation committee has yet to oblige him.

The approach runs counter to influential groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been looking at ways to get more federal money into infrastructure projects, not less.

Heritage Action has ticked off many Republicans for fiercely opposing their plans — see Speaker John Boehner and Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland — and Monday’s event was intended to show off who and what Heritage supports. You couldn’t find a seat when Sen. Ted Cruz was speaking.

Price presented his vision for health care reform alongside Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe. Both are doctors who have their own bills to replace Obamacare, and they each had praise for the other.

The bills have a lot in common – repeal Obamacare, expand health savings accounts, allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines, reform the medical malpractice system.

They also share the fate that neither will become law while President Barack Obama is in office and/or the Senate is controlled by Democrats. This, Price and Roe freely admitted.

“In three-to-five years we won’t be living under this legislation [Obamacare], under this law, because it doesn’t work,” Price said.

But House GOP leaders are trying to unite behind one plan that can pass the House this year to provide the party’s clear alternative ahead of the fall election. Price said he expects movement on that front in the “second quarter” of this year and that it likely would be a melding of ideas, perhaps including his own.

Feb. 11, 2014, 11:19 a.m.: This post has been corrected to reflect that Georgia, like every state, has not been a gas tax “donor state” since 2007.

40 comments
Lunaville
Lunaville

I'd prefer an increase in the tax on gasoline to .36 cents per gallon with every additional penny dedicated to building real mass transit options in Georgia. First, Marta needs to be, at least, doubled inside the perimeter. We need very rapid rail connecting to Marta and with stations in Dahlonega, Athens, Roswell, Marietta, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, and Milledgeville. Any city as large as Athens of Milledgeville or larger should have a proper mass transit system within the city that serves everyone - NOT just the buses for the elderly that cater only to those folks who fought against and voted against mass transit all their lives.


Fare from the North Springs Station to the Airport is about .083 cents per mile. Tickets would need to be priced by the mile once Georgia got serious about public transportation. If it motivated our state government to invest in public transit, I would be okay with a three tier transit system with the following tiers. Economy class with first come, first serve seating and plenty of places to hold on if a person ends up standing for the duration of the trip. Business class, at .16 cents a mile, and each person assigned a seat. First class, at 24 cents a mile, each person assigned a seat with a desk that flips down like an airline tray and wireless service. If provisions like these, made mass transit in Georgia a viable reality, they would be worth any inconveniences that came with them.



JonLester
JonLester

Wouldn't it be more fiscally conservative to talk about eliminating petroleum subsidies?

DS
DS

“Potholes and unfixed roads are there today because in many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states,” Graves said.

It is true that some states don't get their fair share of federal spending. But that isn't why we have potholes and unfixed roads in Georgia.

What he didn't say is that  Democratic-leaning states tend to be net contributors to the federal budget while Republican-leaning states are more often net recipients of federal spending. For example, in the most recent data available (2012), Georgia received more federal spending, $68 B, than we contributed in federal taxes, $65 B.

So why do we have potholes and unfixed roads in Georgia? Because at the state level, "small-government" conservatives don't want to collect sufficient taxes to maintain them. They're just too cheap.

Politicians like Graves like to use the federal government as a bogeyman to shift the blame away from themselves.

Graves' transportation plan... would slash the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon. The states, then, could make up the difference in any way they like...

Ha! A person would have to be really gullible to believe that. Can you imagine a Georgia state legislator suggesting a tax increase, for any reason?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

There is some benefit from what Graves is suggesting. The Feds do not seem to have a learning curve on environmental reports. If you do something 20 times to solve an envro problem with a project, and you have a new project with the same issue, why do they have to reinvent the wheel? Same with project involvement/oversight. Even when you invite the Feds to be a part of project definition/scope, and keep them close during project design, they almost always come back later and change their minds (due to turnover, lack of experience, ...) and demand changes that affect project delivery (delayed) and costs (increased) .

LDH2O
LDH2O

Get the Federal gov out of the way and the state will do a better job. Hmm, how is state-directed education working out for GA? The charter initiative was supposed to push control down to the very lowest level but GA is still at the lowest end of the pile. I am not saying that the Federal gov has all the answers but they see a bigger picture and since the transportation grid needs to be multi-state it makes sense that the Federal gov lead that effort.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

julia: They already have! Most work now done by consultants and contractors. Any studies done to examine the change were done by......consultants! I'm shocked! And has anyone seen a cost analysis of effectiveness?


numbers: Most of the Interstate system is completed except for maintenance and widenings /operational updates.


“Potholes and unfixed roads are there today because in many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states,” Graves said."

BS Georgia's gas tax incl the Fed tax does not permit the needed maintenance of the Interstates and state routes. The locals who have everything else cannot get fed/state tax monies for their roads because...there is none to be had. Why do you think they have LSPLOSTS? Transportation including transit in Georgia is grossly underfunded.

juliainatlanta
juliainatlanta

let's privatize DOT and turn it into a profit driven entity like we should be doing with all of the govt services and functions.  *snark*

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

You folks don't like driving on dirt roads?

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

Republicans propose eliminating the majority of current funding for interstate access. Why am I not surprised at the stupidity.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

"“Potholes and unfixed roads are there today because in many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states,” Graves said."

Republicans always have to blame someone else, don't they?

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

Isn't Tom Graves the guy who fleeced the taxpayers in the hotel deal?  Shouldn't that be referenced in every story about him?

(Not that it matters, he's a Republican, so the good folks in NW GA will vote for him no matter what...)

Techfan
Techfan

Federal gas tax is collected per gallon, not on the price of gas. This means that since fuels efficiency has increased, tax dollars haven't increased in realtion to the number of cars on the highways or the number of highways. Now this clown, and the crooked clown DeMint, want to cut to cut it to almost nothing at a time when when need masiive infrastructute improvement, and turn it over to states like Georgia that are run by people who were run out of Washington on a rail dodging ethics investigations. So some areas already have a what 8¢ or 9¢ per dollar sales tax? Hey, let's make it 12¢. and throw some privately contracted By or cronies, er buddies) toll roads where, of coutrse the tolls will expire when they say they'll expire just like the rest of Georgia, Go for the most regressive taxes there are, and a road system that people hate, and has proven to be a failure in Georgia. Believe nothing that comes out of the mouth of DeMint. He's nothing but a paid lackey and a jerk to boot. If you ever wondered what king of gut could actually stand up and argue that splitting away fro  your country and going to war, all for the sake of states being able to own slaves, Jim DeMints your guy.Marries into money and got a gig with the father in law's frim until he could spin off into into his own agency. Live commune style with a bunch of dominionist wack jobs who used their interns as house servants. Now he's head  of a groups founded by Coors and Scaife that's obviously jealous hte ACA stole part of the health care plan from it's health care plan. We should have a standing rule to ignore crazy religious zealots anyway. We can start with Demint.

EliasDenny
EliasDenny

Why not increase state gas taxes so that we can have decent roads in rural areas?

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

First of all, where did Graves get the data that says Georgia, or any other state is a "donor state?"  Has anyone seen Price's college transcripts?

Thurstonhowell3
Thurstonhowell3

How in the world can someone claim that Obamacare (formerly Romneycare) doesn't work when we're less than two months into the first year of implementation? Oh, I forgot. By lying. 

hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

And the "bonfires of the vanities" continue.

JImC2
JImC2

Slash the gas tax? Hell NO! Gasoline is already far too heavily subsidized, We should be raising the gas tax to discourage consumption and encourage conversion to alternate fuels.


If you think gasoline isn't subsidized, explain why we fought three wars (and counting) in the Middle East and why we have a monstrous Homeland Security budget.

Baumer_1
Baumer_1

"In many cases your tax dollars never come back to your states."?

Isn't a third of GA's revenue comprised of federal outlays? Seems to me Georgia needs to show it can govern itself before the Fed hand over all of the reigns.

What audacity Graves has. Was he not in ga 2 weeks ago? The state can neither organize evacuations or prepare for inclement weather on its own.

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

Instead of slashing the tax that pays for road upkeep. why not require a tag for bicycles ?

Bernie31
Bernie31

Congressman Tom Graves Needs to take his Bottom Lip and PULL IT all over his Head and SWALLOW!  Just another Republican LACKEY being ordered by "DEMENT" being told to hold the Party Line. The Congressmen and Senators from Georgia are without Thoughts and Plans of their own...They must be Told what Plans to support.

uh..huh.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Tom Graves is the best that gerrymandering can offer the state. He is an embarrassment to anyone with an ounce of sense. I am mortified I live in his district.

MANGLER
MANGLER

Has anyone told Graves that the Federal dollars only get spent on Federal roads and Interstates and not State or local roads and highways?  Wouldn't matter at all what Georgia did with the money because one entity does not pay for improvements on roads belonging to the other entity.

petel
petel

Graves is not only an idiot, he's a crook.

DannyX
DannyX

Does Graves really want to play the "paying more to the government in gas taxes than it gets back in road money" card?  If so Metro-Atlanta would like to know why 35% of all gas taxes collected here go to other parts of the state.  How about it Georgia, do you want to give up your entitlement to Atlanta tax dollars?  Rep Graves, how much more tax dollars does your own district take in versus the amount it pays out?

honested
honested

It must be an election year.....


tom grave trots out a foolish, unworkable transportation funding scheme bundled with an all important 'tax cut' and manages to gain some ink.


Now can we refer to what the OMB and CBO had to say when demint(ed) trotted out the same foolish plan?

hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

The continued underfunding of state government will ultimately result in a government that is as bad as they say. It will be the result of their vision free leadership rather than the nature of government.

anothercomment
anothercomment

@RoadScholar Follow your example and we will look like the smog in China if the Private Sector had its way. Turn over at the EPA, Conservatives in the House and Senate, want to continue to limit their Salary's, which in turn limits the Salaries to the highest paid Government Employees to $155K year. Then how do you even attempt to hire Engineers, Scientist and Environmental Lawyers  when a starting GS-5 is so low. It looks like they have even taken away the special pay schedules for these specialized fields. It is hard for the Federal Government to compete to hire and retain in Engineering, Science and Law.


I thing the Presidential Pay should be multiplied by 5, say $2 million a year. For the CEO of the Country. with the VP to $1 M. With the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority leader at $750,000.  Then we could have Senators at $700K, Congress Men $500K. The Supremes @ $700 with the Chief at $725. Cabinet heads at $450K. Agency Heads at $350K. Federal Judges at $400K. ( they should make more than a first year law firm assoc.).  This way their would be some room for all of the Professional, Positive degree salaries that Salary Studies show over and over are 36-40%+ under market rate. can be compensated correctly. 


It would be very nice if a Federal Agency could pay an Engineer $60K even out of college when they are being offered $75-80K out of School. Same thing if someone has a PHD in chemistry.  That is why you have people working for a couple of years for EPA, ATSDR, NIOSH, etc. Then they hang out the consulting shingle or join the consulting firm, to get paid the going rate for and Engineer, Scientist or Lawyer.


So if you are really a Rhodes Scholar you will understand my argument without bashing me as a Liberal. I am a moderate.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Techfan Spot on! And add to the sales tax the revenue that is needed when they try to get rid of the income tax!

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@CuriousPrime Georgia gets between 92-95% of what they send to Washington...by Fed law. This law was put in in the 90's when Ga only got 60%...all states got varying amounts...like Massachusetts got 2.01 for every  dollar of Fed gas tax collected back then. Now the min is 92%.

The Feds get a % to do research (materials, design criteria, safety devices,etc. ) , fund safety programs, and to run the US DOT/ FHWA. They have full oversight on Interstate projects and many other Fed funded projects.

anothercomment
anothercomment

@Baumer_1 Now Deal has had to have his good Friend Kaseem Reed ask President Obama for a State of Emergency Declaration for Georgia, for this years weather. This is so they can use FEMA and the Military troops, when this unprepared and downsized state gets overwhelmed.


Obama should have said only if you except Medicaid, increased to 100%. That is really the better deal for people. They are better paying $7-25 for an Obamacare plan if they are 0-150% of PP level then to be stuck on Medicaid.

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

Mangler

You're absolutely WRONG! Federal gas tax is certainly used on state highways. In fact, most state projects are 80% federal, 20% state dollars.

You're absolutely RIGHT! Tom Graves is an idiot!

honested
honested

@MANGLER  

Funny how he takes a shot to mention 'bike lanes'.

Which Interstates or other Federal highways have 'bike lanes'.

 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@DannyX 60-70% of state gas tax monies collected are collected in the Atlanta metro area. We do need to fund other roads in other locations within Georgia due to the movement of trucks and trains (food, goods, etc) destined for here and other states.

There is still a state law which used to force the equal distribution of state gas tax to each of Georgia's Congressional districts....but that has been watered down when it was shown that that was not addressing our basic needs!

denniscbrown
denniscbrown

@DannyX  Not sure I agree with all that Graves' postures, but regarding whether metro-Atlanta wants to give up 35% of all gas tax income to other parts of our state - because we all use roads in all parts of the state. I for one as an Atlanta-area resident, when traveling to the mountains of north Georgia or the coast want to be driving on good roads. Graves says clearly that his ideas would allow states to establish local ways to collect monies for their local roadways - toll highways, for instance. Would I like that - not really. But I'd be glad to have them and have to option to use them or not if it would funnel my dollars spent on local projects. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@DannyX - “Nice mannered kid, just a little on the dumb side”- Foghorn Lehorn

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@PoliticalOutsider You are correct;some are funded 90-10 also. One problem with the Feds is that they keep adding programs (bikes, safety, Safe Routes To Schools, etc ) W/O adding monies which dilutes available monies for other projects. In 1992they reduced 30 some categories to 8.....but have continued to add more categories. Most do not have specific funds tied to specific projects, but this still dilutes the available funds.