Portman introduces amendment giving states control of their own federal highway funds


Staff report



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently announced that he has offered his State Transportation Flexibility Act as an amendment to the highway legislation currently before the Senate.

Portman’s amendment will allow state transportation departments to opt out of the Federal-Aid Highway and Mass Transit programs and direct more gas tax revenues into priority road and bridge projects. This will give these states the freedom to manage and spend the gas tax revenue collected within their states on transportation projects without federal mandates, while ensuring that the current Interstate System is maintained by the states.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to highway funding isn’t working, and by returning power to the states, we can put transportation funding on a sustainable path,” Portman stated. “I’m pleased to offer this amendment which will help to ensure high priority road and bridge projects, such as the Brent Spence Bridge in my hometown of Cincinnati, are completed by giving states the freedom to use highway revenue how they see fit and reducing federal regulations that slow down progress.”

The State Transportation Flexibility Act will put transportation on a path toward fiscal stability and give states the flexibility they need to innovate and better align transportation projects with their state and local needs.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government spends more than $50 billion per year on surface transportation programs, mostly in the form of grants to state and local governments. Much of this spending is for highways and mass transit programs financed through the Highway Trust Fund.

For decades, the federal government has hamstrung Ohio and other states with burdensome mandates to federal funds for roads and bridges. The Highway Trust Fund has been bailed out five times since 2008 to the tune of $65 billion and the fund remains on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) “high risk” list.

Despite the fact that the Highway Trust Fund is on fiscal life support, fewer and fewer dollars from the fund are actually being spent on construction and maintenance of core transportation infrastructure like highways and bridges. The GAO has concluded that “large increases in federal expenditures for transportation in recent years have not commensurately improved system performance.”

Staff report