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Congress needs to devolve all funding and authority for building roads to the states.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/30/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 851 times Debate No: 13517
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Our roads and bridges are crumbling. It's only a matter of time before we have another disaster of the type that befell the Twin Cities. The problem is that the desperately needed funds to rebuild and maintain our infrastructure are few and far between; the Highway Trust Fund is woefully short, and are increasingly incapable of funding our infrastructure needs. The gas tax just doesn't cut it anymore, and there is never going to be the political will to increase it. The problem is that we've allowed the federal system to occupy the entire field of road-building. States send their gas tax money there, only to get it redistributed back to them via a system that is painfully inefficient and unduly restrictive. Federal funds are tied to tons of restrictions and environmental hurdles, resulting in painful delays and escalating the costs of every project that needs to get done. It would be much better to get the federal government out of the business of building our roads and bridges, and let the states keep the money and do it themselves. Let the states come up with their own ways of raising money, and let them unleash the power of the private sector to help build the critical infrastructure we so desperately need, through public-private partnerships, etc.. (Historical note: the legislation that authorized the Federal Highway System was only supposed to last 10 years, and most roads in the early days were built as tolled facilities.)


Thank for the opportunity to engage in this debate, as it is my first on this website.

The Highway Trust Fund is a part of a larger program known as the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP).

Before 1956, the year Interstate System authorizations were greatly increased, the HTF did not exist. Cash to liquidate previously incurred obligations for the FAHP came from the General Fund of the Treasury. Budget authority came through the granting of contract authority, as it does now.

Although taxes on gas and automobile products existed, they were not linked to funding for highways. At the time, financing for the highway program and revenues from automobile and related products were included under the public finance principle of "spend where you must, and get the money where you can." Aside from this, the program operated in terms of authorizations, obligations, appropriations, and reimbursements—much as it does now.

Another important characteristic of the HTF is that it was set up as a pay-as-you-go fund. When the creation of the HTF was under consideration, there were concerns that the proceeds of the taxes dedicated to the HTF might prove insufficient to make reimbursements when claims were made. The bill under consideration was amended to require a comparison of current and future resources with existing and projected unpaid expenses and to adjust the amounts apportioned for highways if the two are out of balance.

Under the Byrd Amendment, as modified by the unfunded authorizations (unpaid commitments in excess of amounts available in the Highway Account of the HTF) at the end of the fiscal year in which the apportionment is to be made must be *less* than the revenues anticipated to be earned in the following 48- month period. For example, to determine the status of FY 2006, at the close of FY 2005 the Secretary of the Treasury must determine if the balance of the Highway Account of the HTF as of September 30, 2005, plus the anticipated income in FYs 2006 through 2008, will be greater than the sum of the authorizations to be distributed for FY 2006 and the authorizations distributed, but not paid, as of September 30, 2005. If a shortfall in funds is projected, then all Highway Account funded program apportionments for FY 2006 would be reduced proportionately.

The balance of the HTF has long been a point of controversy. Because of the nature of a reimbursable program like the FAHP, there may be cash in the fund that is not needed for immediate use. It is important to understand that this is not necessarily excess cash but will be needed to reimburse the States as vouchers are submitted.

Perhaps a comparison of the HTF operation to a personal financial situation can help clarify this point. If a person has a checking account balance of $500, that amount cannot be considered excess if he or she has at the same time outstanding monthly bills of $1,000, but neither is the account in a deficit situation if he or she will receive $1,200 in a paycheck at the end of the month.

The HTF operates in the same manner. Although there was a cash balance of $10.6 billion in the Highway Account of the HTF at the close of FY 2005, there were also, at the same time, unpaid commitments (authorizations already apportioned/allocated to the States or others) against the HTF totaling $79.8 billion. Therefore, the $10.6 billion balance was not excess cash.

There is plenty of money coming out of the fund and going into infrastructure. Unfortunately things cost a lot more to do nowadays. Its a lot more expensive to build a tunnel in New York City under multi billion dollar buildings then it is to create a flat road stretching across the great planes.

Decentralizing the fund and its income sources to the states would actually be a giant leap backwards for our nations infrastructure creation system. We can barely get states to set standards on how to regulate alcohol in a sane manor but you expect them to coordinate when it comes to multistate-roads (interstate) or magnet train lines twisting across our country? There are vastly improved modes of transportation technology has made available to us- and they are immensely more expensive.

So on this point, how can a state be expected to come up with such a HUGE amount of money when the time comes to connect to another state (since the system isn't being all built at once) and what happens to the efficiency of, essentially, master planning? It disappears.
Debate Round No. 1


smileydodge forfeited this round.


The centralization is essential to the success of inter-state projects.
Debate Round No. 2


smileydodge forfeited this round.


Essentially essential.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by launilove 5 years ago
dang got a bit of bad wording in there, sorry
Posted by Sieben 5 years ago
No way, cus that would be anarchy.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
"Twin towers" I presume?

But yes, how would a publicly-funded highway withstand the impact from a jetliner piloted by a crazed Islamic terrorist compared to that of a privately-funded road?
Posted by m93samman 5 years ago
"the twin cities"?...
Posted by BlackVoid 5 years ago
This is an interesting topic that has a lot of options for both sides. I would take this but sadly I'm currently debating about the morality of nuke weapons.

I hope you get a good con because this can be a very good round if both of you are good.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by losedotexe 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:05