Transportation Secretary H.B. “Buck” Limehouse Jr. told members of
Congress that the fuel tax is not providing the needed revenue to meet
the needs of the country’s transportation infrastructure. Limehouse
testified in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning June 24, 2008, before the
Highway & Transit Subcommittee of the House of Representatives
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Subcommittee invited
Limehouse and others to express their views on the current fuel crisis
and its impact on the nation.
pointed out that the increase in fuel prices has reached a point where
the public is consciously driving fewer miles, which results in
decreased revenues and increased costs for the South Carolina Department
of Transportation, creating a two-edged sword for the agency. Limehouse
said, “The fuel tax has proven ineffective in meeting the demands made
on our highway system. This is a shrinking revenue source, and it
doesn’t apply to highway users who drive alternative fuel vehicles.”
described the conflict created between two of the nation’s policies
related to energy: the reliance on gas tax revenues to fund
transportation, while at the same time working toward a goal of less oil
consumption, promoting the use of alternative fuels and fuel-efficient
vehicles. He also noted the 2007 legislation that mandates fuel economy
standards for vehicles to increase 40% by the year 2020.
told the Subcommittee that revenue from motor fuel taxes in South
Carolina have been below 2007 levels for the past three months,
establishing a trend that he expects to continue through 2008. He noted
that SCDOT has undertaken a number of cost saving measures throughout
the entire agency during the past year. The effort has resulted in a cut
of $18.7 million in the FY08-09 administrative budget. These funds will
be added to the agency’s highway & bridge maintenance budgets.
However, Limehouse said that these savings are not enough to keep up
with inflation. “These savings will be far outweighed by the inflation
we have experienced in construction and materials, particularly
petroleum-based materials like asphalt,” said Limehouse.
made his remarks to the Subcommittee at a time when Congress is
considering the reauthorization and funding levels of the Highway Trust
Fund. This is the fund from which state departments of transportation
receive a return on the federal gas tax that is collected at the pump.
Limehouse reminded the members that South Carolina is a “donor state,”
meaning that more revenue from this state goes into the federal Highway
Trust Fund than is returned for highway and transit programs. Currently,
the state receives 92-cents for every dollar of federal fuel tax paid
at the pump, and 42-cents on the dollar for transit programs.
Limehouse noted that South Carolina is the 41st state in geographic size, but maintains the 4th-largest
state highway system in the country: 42,000 miles of roads and 8,300
bridges. In addition, South Carolina is a coastal state where census
figures bear out that the state is a growth area, which puts added
pressures on the transportation infrastructure system and mass transit
pointed to partnerships as the future of transportation funding. “We
must look to create incentives for local governments to invest in
highways and transit. These partnerships play a major role in resolving
needs-based problems in a political environment. All of us working
together can do more than any one of us individually,” he added.
concluded his remarks by saying that the nation must continue to
encourage fuel efficiency and transit programs. However he called for an
end to the unequal funding formulas that favor some states over others.
Limehouse stressed that the need to change this nation’s vision of
highway policy is now and that new and creative means are needed so that
transportation services can grow with the demand.
The complete text of Secretary Limehouse’s remarks and his photo can be found at this link: http://www.scdot-transfer.org/scdotphotos/LimehouseTestimony/Limehouse.htm