I posted earlier that the New York Times editorial board certainly seems a gloomy future for cities and states that depend on federal funding. Now, here’s a second media story that focuses on transportation funding — and the news isn’t much better.
As KPCC reporter Kitty Felde explains, the federal gas tax has not increased since 1993. Even in the best of economic times — and 2011 is not — politicians are loathe to raise the gas tax. But without a hike, the federal Highway Trust Fund will be depleted, which is kind of a problem: the Fund is used to pay for transportation projects across the U.S. Excerpt:
China spends 9 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure projects; India spends 5 percent. The U.S.? About 2.4 percent of our GDP goes to infrastructure. And as a congressional supercommittee looks for ways to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit, that number is likely to continue to shrink.
With a shrinking highway fund, Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed a multiyear transportation spending bill with big-time cuts. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate — led by California’s Barbara Boxer — have proposed a two-year bill that maintains current funding levels for transportation. Both bills, by the way, include some of the provisions needed for Metro’s America Fast Forward program to become law, allowing the agency to accelerate its building of transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax increase.
But neither of the bills proposed contains ALL of what’s needed for America Fast Forward. If transportation agencies such as Metro do not get direct funding from the feds, nor can they even borrow and use other federal financing tools, then what happens next?