Fuel tax revenues, which have been used in the past to fund state transportation projects, have declined over the years as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, more Americans drive alternative fuel vehicles and as traffic patterns change nationwide. The program the CSG resolution supports was proposed this summer by the National Conference of State Legislatures. It asks Congress to create a $20 million program, with no more than $2 million available for any one state.
Washington Rep. Judy Clibborn, chair of the CSG Transportation Public Policy Committee and of her state's House Transportation Committee, pointed out that some states have been working on mileage-based user fees as a future funding mechanism.
"It's being spearheaded in Oregon and Washington is working closely right behind them trying to waft on the tail of all the work that they have done," she said.
Clibborn spoke in favor of the resolution and said states will be the leaders in finding alternative funding, but they could use federal help.
"It wouldn't have to be just (mileage fees) but if there are other alternatives, (they will) come from the states," she said. "It's not going to come from the federal government."
Sean Slone, CSG's program manager for Transportation Policy, pointed out states have always been at the forefront of transportation innovation.
"States, as always, are the laboratories of democracy with regards to transportation funding alternatives," he said. "The gas tax began at the state level—in Oregon—before being adopted at the national level. Oregon is now one of the laboratories for the mileage-based road usage fee.
"In addition, a variety of other states have begun to experiment with their own alternatives to fuel taxes reflecting the need to limit the erosion of much needed transportation revenues, to more accurately reflect the wear and tear of vehicles on the nation's roads and to uphold the 'user pays, user benefits' model that has undergirded the nation's transportation system for much of the past century."
Slone said little funding and few incentives are available to states to experiment with funding mechanisms.
"This proposed program would allow some of them to do so to a greater degree," Slone said.
The CSG Executive Committee also passed a resolution urging Congress to pass the next federal surface transportation authorization bill before the current authorization, known as MAP-21, expires on Sept. 30, 2014. That resolution also asks Congress to discuss the future of federal transportation program and the Highway Trust Fund while they deliberate the authorization legislation.
The committee also approved resolutions:
Asking the Obama administration and Congress to review policies that inhibit the production of domestic energy resources—both conventional and renewable—in the United States.
Opposing any federal legislation or executive action that would eliminate the federal tax exemption on municipal bonds.
Endorsing the Aerospace States Association's policy paper, "UAS Privacy Concerns," which addresses privacy concerns of unmanned aerial systems, and supporting the Federal Aviation Administration-monitored use of UAS as emerging technologies with a potential economic benefit from states.
Encouraging Congress to amend the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act to give states a more accurate picture of the cost of federal programs.
Urging continued funding for states and territories eligible for the State Trade and Export Promotion grant program.
Urging the states and territories to make prevention and treatment of obesity a top priority and to work to reduce obesity and the medical costs related to it.
Requesting that Congress implement a legislative solution for the efficient operation of integrated regional livestock programs and avoid additional regulations and requirements for meat producers and processors.
Supporting the new U.S./Canada international trade crossing and urging the federal government to proceed with construction.
The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships.