Lee, Graves, Rubio Introduce Major Highway Funding Reform Bill

TEA Act Aims To Cut Commute Time, Improve Quality Of Life

November 14, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Transportation Empowerment Act, a bill to open up America’s transportation system to greater local control, better targeted projects, and a more efficient way to maintain and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The bill allows states to respond to the needs of their communities and develop systems that result in less traffic, shorter commutes, more affordable homes, and help families better manage the work-life balance.

"Under the Transportation Empowerment Act, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where sticky-fingered politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached,” said Sen. Lee. "Instead, states and cities could plan, finance, and build better-designed and more affordable projects. Local communities should finally have the flexibility to develop the kind of transportation system they want, for less money, without politicians and special interests from other parts of the country telling them how, when, what, and where they should build. For the country as a whole, our plan would mean a better infrastructure system, new jobs and opportunities, diverse localism, and innovative environmental protection. And for working families, it could mean more access to quality, affordable homes, less time on the road – and making it home in time for dinner with the kids.”

“People want to spend less time in traffic and more time enjoying life,” said Rep. Graves, who is introducing the TEA Act in the House for the second time. “Our bill will streamline the highway program, allowing more projects to be completed at a lower cost. This means commuters can move more easily between home and work, freeing up important family time and cutting out hours of frustration behind the wheel.”

“We must empower states to develop the transportation systems they need and remove roadblocks created by Washington, which is why I have joined Senator Lee in introducing this legislation,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “Donor states like Florida should be getting a better return on our investment, and the Transportation Empowerment Act will do just that.”

The House version sponsored by Rep. Graves currently has 19 cosponsors. 


Legislation details:

Transportation Empowerment Act

How it Works

  • Transfers almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period.
  • Lowers the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents from 18.4 cents over the same time period.
  • During the five-year phase out, states will receive block grants that come with vastly fewer federal strings attached.

What It Does

  • Immediately reduces the bureaucratic burden involved in the construction of critical transportation projects.
  • Results in a faster administrative response to the transportation problems Americans face, such as traffic, commuting, and access.
  • Gives states greater flexibility in their tax structure.
  • Connects where people want to work with where they want to live.
  • Opens opportunities to develop new mass-transit solutions, innovate environmental protections, and improve the financing of projects.
  • Creates jobs and grows the economy.

Why The Current System Hurts The Commute

  • When the costs of federal red tape and Highway Trust Fund redistribution are taken into account, 37 states, including Georgia and Utah, have a rate of return below 100%.  For example, Georgia’s estimated buying power in Fiscal Year 2014 is anticipated to be approximately 84% based on the most recent Highway Trust Fund payment information available, costing Georgia taxpayers $185 million.
  • For Fiscal Year 2014, $820 million was authorized nationwide for so-called “transportation alternatives” described by the Federal Highway Administration as “landscaping and scenic enhancement” and “recreational enhancement,” among others.