By Bill Bradley and David Walker - 03/20/12 07:56 PM ET
The latest extension of our federal transportation law — its eighth — expires at the end of this month. Options include either another extension to squeak past the November election and revisit this issue in lame-duck session or an 18-month bill that passes the buck to the next Congress. But one thing is certain: We won’t pay for it. Instead, both options provide obvious excuses for reallocating funds that are currently deposited in the U.S. Treasury to keep the program on life support.
The highway trust fund, which supports our federal transportation programs, is broke. It is kept alive through billions of dollars in periodic transfers from general funds. This is straight debt. If we add deferred maintenance on the federal-aid system, interest on borrowed money and a conservative calculation of the costs that transportation imposes on other federal programs such as health and welfare, the total annual transportation contribution to our national deficit exceeds $100 billion.
There is a better way to fully fund our national infrastructure program that is also kind to our pocketbook: Exchange the current federal gas tax for a 6 percent oil-security fee imposed on all oil produced in, or imported into, the United States. This oil security fee could be collected through the existing administrative structure of the Oil Spill Liability Fund — thus requiring no new bureaucracy. In return, the entire gas tax could be rebated. At $103 per barrel, the amount raised completely offsets the loss of this most unpopular tax. As the world oil price rise to more than $103 per barrel, the oil security fee yields net revenues... FULL ARTICLE
Tue, March 20, 2012
by John Cox