Monday, October 29, 2007

Congressional Budget Office Presents Testimony on Transportation Spending

Earlier this month, Mr. Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) presented testimony on federal spending on surface transportation infrastructure. This report was prompted by events anticipate for 2007: the expiration of SAFETEA-LU and spending form the Highway Trust Fund outpacing revenues.

Most government spending on surface transportation infrastructure is by state and local governments (about three-fourths). The great majority of federal spending is on capital (92 percent). The majority of state and local spending is on operations and maintenance (64 percent).

The CBO points out that Congress will need to find ways to decrease spending (or at least the growth in spending), increase revenues, or some combination of these. Fully funding the projected spending by raising fuel taxes could result in an increase of 5 cents per gallon.

The CBO suggested alternatives to fuel taxes.
-Mileage fees. Fees based on the number of miles traveled by a vehicle. This would include tolls.
-Weight-distance fees. Annual fees based on the mileage and type of vehicle.
-Congestion fees. Fees based on road choice and travel timing.
State and local governments are using or have experimented with these alternatives. They are advantageous and more economically efficient in that they link particular infrastructure resources to their users and type of use. The present fuel tax system is advantageous in that it is relatively inexpensive to administer and hard to evade.