Take a breath and repeat after me: The Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act, or GROW AMERICA Act. That’s the surface transportation proposal the Department of Transportation (DOT) released today. An acronym that long can only mean more government, more regulation, and more spending.
Heritage identified the major flaws in this plan when it was first released as part of President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget proposal. It hasn’t improved since then. Here are four ways the DOT’s proposal would fail to solve the transportation challenges on the ground in local communities:
1. It gives more control to Washington bureaucrats and special interests. The plan is self-serving, letting politicians, bureaucrats, and influential special interests determine which modes of transportation get money and in what amounts. It fails to reform the current Washington-centric approach to transportation, as bringing decision-making and funding authority closer to home would do.
2. It is a repackaged stimulus package. This plan promises government spending will produce jobs and opportunity, more efficient government, and actual infrastructure projects. But every dollar spent by Washington means one less dollar in the private sector—or remaining in the states—where it would be generally spent more efficiently.
3. It transfers highway dollars away from highways to unrelated activities. Already Congress diverts gas tax dollars paid by motorists, bus operators, and truckers, to local activities such as subways, streetcars, nature paths, and landscaping. This plan would exacerbate the diversions by making federally subsidized passenger rail (Amtrak) eligible for funding. Frustrated motorists, who are increasingly finding themselves stuck in traffic, would get shortchanged.
4. It doesn’t get basic facts right. The proposal calls for spending “to fix our decaying roads and crumbling bridges.” DOT should double check its own data which, as Cato Institute scholar Chris Edwards writes, actually show that the number of deficient bridges has decreased and the quality of highways has improved over time. Yes, parts of the country’s infrastructure are aging and have deteriorated, but better to ditch the top-down approach and empower the states, localities, and private sector to address such problems in their communities, which they know better than Washington does.
The Obama administration does not even offer a sound way to pay for the bill’s hefty $302 billion price tag. It relies on a “temporary” grab of new revenue from corporate tax reform, when, in fact, any such revenue should go toward lower tax rates, not to pay for new spending.