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May 27, 2015 5:40 PM, EDT

Sen. Tom Carper: ‘Devolution’ Would Hinder National Transportation Network

Eno Center for Transportation

WASHINGTON — As Senate transportation authorizers prepare to consider a six-year measure next month, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said efforts that would limit the federal government’s involvement in large-scale infrastructure projects would hurt the country’s intricate freight network.

“Our economy is not just limited to the state of Delaware. It’s Pennsylvania, New Jersey …  Maryland, the rest of the country, the rest of the world,” Carper said May 27 at the unveiling of a report about the 1982 fuel-tax increase hosted by the Eno Center for Transportation.

Lawmakers continue to scramble to figure out a way to finance a six-year bill. Carper, a senior transportation authorizer, has proposed increasing the national gas tax as a way to boost the Highway Trust Fund. On the House side, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation this year that would raise fuel taxes. But GOP leaders have strongly opposed such action.

Many transportation stakeholders, including trucking industry leaders, support raising fuel taxes as a way to pay for infrastructure projects, and they reject devolving transportation responsibility to the states.

But proponents of "devolution" — the concept of amplifying states' authority over transportation funding — are expected to seek support for their efforts around the time the Senate Environment and Public Works panel considers a long-term highway bill toward the end of June, several aides told Transport Topics.

The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that a six-year bill would need about $100 billion in new revenue. So far, congressional leaders are not in agreement about where to get those funds.