The GOP’s Latest Brain-Buster: Defund the Highway System

Written by SK Ashby

A pair of congressional Republicans have unveiled a proposal that is herculean in its stupidity, becoming progressively more idiotic with each layer you peel back.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) are proposing that we essentially defund the interstate highway system by gradually eliminating the mechanism we use to pay for it and transfer control of the system to the states.

The measure, which has been dubbed the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA), would lower the gas tax that currently pays for most federal transportation projects from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents in five years.

The TEA act. Isn't that cute?

“The federal government’s Highway Trust Fund is broke and another year of band aid funding is not going to fix it,” Lee said in a statement.

If it's true, as you allege, that the Highway Trust Fund is broke (if it's broke it's because Republicans refuse to adequately fund it), how exactly would defunding it make things better?

During the same time period, the bill would transfer authority over federal highways and transit programs to states and replace current congressional appropriations with block grants. [...]

"American communities face a variety of transportation needs and it makes little sense to have Washington, DC serve as a bureaucratic middleman for basic projects,” DeSantis added.

Actually, it makes perfect sense to have a federal bureaucratic middleman manage the interstate highway system that crosses between all jurisdictions in the lower 48 states.

Without a federal middleman, states would have to negotiate and deal with each other without any dominating authority and you would more or less replace an efficient middleman with a nightmarish cobweb of middlemen.

“Our bill would update today’s broken infrastructure funding system by slowly cutting the federal gas tax, thus giving states the opportunity to better identify which projects need funding and how to fund them,” [Lee] said.

If you've paid any attention to recent events over the past several months, years or even the past decade for that matter, you would know that leaving states to their own devices is a preposterous idea.

How exactly will Kansas, which came dangerously close to a partial government shutdown last weekend, find the funding to even maintain the interstate highway system? Kansas cannot even be bothered to fund education at a level that is constitutional.

How exactly will Louisiana, which faces a $1.6 billion deficit and the possible bankruptcy of the public university system, find the funding to maintain the highway system?

How will Wisconsin fund the highway system while Governor Scott Walker is cutting education to fund a new basketball arena?

Does anyone really believe conservative state legislatures would be in favor of imposing new taxes to pay for highways?

“By cutting out the bureaucratic middle man in Washington, states will be able to keep more of their infrastructure dollars at home where they belong and they will be able to avoid the costly and often duplicative federal regulations that can bring any infrastructure project to a screeching halt.”

Theoretically, some states could "keep more of their infrastructure dollars at home," but not the conservative states that would actually have a desire to thumb their nose at the federal government in this manner.

States that receive more in federal funding than they contribute in taxes would not keep anything; they would simply find themselves deeper in the hole.

This bill introduced by Senator Lee and Representative DeSantis may as well be a proposal to not have an interstate highway system, at least not in the Don't Tread On Me states they see themselves as representing