(NASHVILLE), February 16, 2017 — A resolution urging President Donald Trump and the United States Congress to enact legislation to establish a transportation block grant funding program for distribution to the states was approved 30 to 2 by the full Senate on Thursday. Senate Joint Resolution 59, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), also urges the enactment of legislation to repeal all federal mandates, either by statute, rule, or policy, that dictate the expenditure of federal transportation funding.
“A block grant program, combined with elimination of federal mandates would enable us to self-determine our transportation priorities and address Tennessee’s longstanding highway infrastructure needs,” said Senator Beavers. “Congress should minimize the federal government’s role in transportation spending, leaving states to decide how best to invest in the infrastructure that our citizens deem most necessary.”
Federal transportation dollars are primarily funded by motorists and truckers who pay a series of user taxes. The resolution maintains that federal transportation policy has lost its focus as to the use of the federal highway trust fund by diverting money for non-road purposes. This is done through federally-legislated mandates and earmarks that dictate how states can expend the funding. Additionally, states are required to enact or adopt specific statutes and rules to even qualify for federal monies or maintain eligibility for federal funding of highway programs.
The resolution expresses Tennessee’s growing dissatisfaction with federal transportation policy and mismanagement of the federal highway trust fund that has encouraged many in Congress and state governments nationwide to seek ways to overhaul the system. It also suggests that a remedy would be the development of a block grant distribution plan whereby each state would receive a block grant from the federal highway trust fund equal to the federal fuel tax revenues raised within its borders. States would be entitled to spend such grants on transportation priorities of their own choosing
The resolution calls for a copy to be delivered to the President Trump, the Speaker and the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, the President and the Secretary of the United States Senate, and to each member of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.