States seek more from Highway Trust Fund

News AASHTO Journal May 28, 2003
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Legislation to alter current funding distribution formulas to increase from 90 to 95% the "minimum guarantee" return that state


Legislation to alter current funding distribution formulas to increase from 90 to 95% the "minimum guarantee" return that states receive from the Highway Trust Fund was introduced this week in the House and Senate.


The bill is the product of a 17-member "donor" state group known as the SHARE (States' Highway Alliance for Tea-21 Equity) Coalition, which was successful in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) at raising the minimum guarantee to 90% of the percentage of a state's contributions to the Highway Trust Fund. The bill was introduced by Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) along with 18 cosponsors, and in the House by Reps. Tom Delay (R-Texas) and Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and 121 cosponsors. States represented among the sponsors include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.


The bill will provide that all states would receive no less than a 95% return of their contributions to Highway Trust Fund revenues that are distributed to the states for highway programs. The bill also would seek to protect smaller, less populous states by providing that states with a population density of less than 50 people per square mile would be guaranteed a share greater than 95%. That reportedly would affect 15 states.


Proponents of the 95% return argue that the current highway distribution formulas were crafted in the 1950s to assist rural states with large landmasses in building their portions of the interstate system. The donor states, who have contributed more than they have gotten back from the Highway Trust Fund, have argued that since the interstate system is complete, then the formula should be revised to send more tax revenue back to the states in which it originates.


Opponents of the concept maintain that all states benefit from the commerce that travels on the interstates, and that federal funding is needed to maintain and improve the system.


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