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Much while gas prices have been falling so have gas tax revenues because of the month -- high gas prices and more fuel efficient cars the federal government.
Has seen a drop in tax revenues dedicated to federal transportation spending last weekend the highway trust fund received.
And eighteen billion dollar emergency infusion due to the shortfall.
We currently spend 86 billion on transportation infrastructure.
But some estimates say we need at least 201.
-- five billion.
What will that money come from in this economy here now to discuss that is Robert act and send -- chair of the national surface transportation policy.
And revenue study commission and -- Hampshire democratic congressman.
Paul -- as a member of the house financial services and house oversight and Government Reform Committee good morning gentlemen Robert let me start with you.
In plain English what exactly does the highway trust fund you.
On the morning just a quick correction I'm actually chair of the national infrastructure finance commission a little different I don't sorry -- -- that's.
The highway trust fund this basically an accounting tool that congress created.
Over about fifty years ago and and what it does is it is -- an account by which revenues such as the gas tax are deposited when they come into the treasury.
Then -- allocated out to specific infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.
Congressman we heard about -- a billion dollar injection into the highway trust find.
But there are growing concerns that the funding is not going to be there in the long term.
But -- -- as we're seeing less people on the road declining gasoline prices what does that mean for the highway trust fund why that's so important.
Our basic infrastructure really needs attention.
Well one of the things that Robert and I were talking about before we went on the air is the possibility that another economic stimulus package will include significant investment.
In our infrastructure because investing in our infrastructure.
Means jobs and right now that's very important.
In the long term as cars become more efficient.
We are going to need to find other sources -- the highway gas tax to fund our infrastructure projects but.
There are many different possibilities out there but in the short term.
I'm pushing hard in the economic stimulus that we're talking about to make sure that we're investing in our roads our bridges our dams.
One billion dollars of investment means 42000.
Jobs that could go a long way to helping stop the a recessionary cycle that we're in right.
Now on the other hand though congressman -- bat look I I agree we certainly need to do something about infrastructure and if it's -- into the second stimulus plan.
That's great but are you concerned about the longevity of the highway trust by -- Is -- -- -- creating jobs and and helping address the infrastructure problem.
Today and in coming months but what about addressing it in the long term do we need to -- -- how we raise the money.
I think we probably well -- mean if we're looking at the reality.
The inevitable fall.
In gas tax revenues as cars become more efficient it's the right thing to do.
We are going to have to look at other ways to make the investments we need.
A one of the things that's been a real problem is that we have been inconsistent.
About our commitment to infrastructure.
And in the global economy especially competing with a country like China.
Which is making massive infrastructure investments.
We can't afford to fall behind.
And we -- city to expand.
Our definition of infrastructure to include broad band throughout the country we need a comprehensive broadband policy.
And we need to pay real attention to our electric grid and those are going to need to be redefined this fundamental components of our infrastructure investment.
Robert walk me through here I -- I understand the federal government Nash since the end each of the states and local municipalities about 40% of their funding.
And -- states have to make up the dear friends.
If things do continue to get more and more difficult.
Will leave -- changes in local and state taxes to make up for the loss of fun.
Well look the reason we have a shortfall on the highway trust fund is is partly because we haven't raised the gas tax and a number of years.
And about the same time we haven't really pushed towards doing more -- pricing.
And so as a result -- just a lot fewer revenues in the system it's very hard for states to raise the gas tax.
It's been hard for the federal government to do it and the same time we have a lot of restrictions and barriers to raising money through tolls so we're sort of between a rock and a hard place what we have to do I would agree with the cartoon in the short run.
We do need to for so we need more money in the stimulus package towards this for short term fix -- should raise the gas tax and it.
In a modest way as a -- term fixed and at the same time we've got to move much more aggressively -- -- impression.
If you did more -- in pricing particularly in congested cities in metropolitan areas you could raise tens of billions of dollars a year have the user pay for that.
Congressman I imagine though that's not gonna sell well with the American people who are already feeling the pain in a very very difficult climate yet.
Gasoline prices have come down but we're still at relatively high levels how do you show that at a time like this.
Will look raising taxes is always a political tough sell especially where I come from in New Hampshire.
Later today I'm going to be talking with.
Alan Greenspan I just finished his book and he talks about the need.
That he sees for a gradual rise over time -- in the gas tax.
And there are lots of different ways to to try to sell that.
Taxes are always a tough sell but.
Harsh realities are are facing us in lots of different areas as we move to fiscal prudence in fiscal responsibility.
Both the federal level and the state level.
Ultimately folks are interest did in making sure the infrastructure is there.
Their interest to -- environment new energy policies and it may be that after this overheated over leveraged era that we've been AM.
Folks are ready to listen to the harsh facts of reality but it's never an easy -- All right congressman hodes and Robert Atkins and thank you so much gentlemen for joining us.
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