Utah League of Cities and Towns

Making Life BETTER

Senator Orrin Hatch (R) – Federal Transportation Funding

The federal government’s one-size-fits all transportation policies and mandates are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and causing inexcusable delays in the construction of highways, bridges and other transportation infrastructure in Utah and across the nation. I believe it is time to unshackle the states from federal meddling and burdensome regulations and let them manage their own gas tax dollars. I am confident they can do a much better job of it than the federal government, which is fraught with waste and mismanagement.

I am proud to be a cosponsor of the State Transportation Flexibility Act. This bill would empower Utah and other states to free themselves from wasteful mandates and heavy-handed interference from the federal government by enabling them to opt out of federal highway programs.

States opting out of federal transportation programs would give up the money that is sent to them from the federal government in exchange for their share of the federal gas tax collected within their borders. The federal transportation program has become increasingly complex and inefficient. The State Transportation Flexibility Act will streamline the process and make it easier for state transportation officials to deliver the highway projects that are critical to maintaining a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure.

While I see this bill as a long-term solution to our inefficient federal transportation programs, it does not address the short-term problem that we are facing when the current extension on the highway bill expires in April 2012. Until we can pass the State Transportation Flexibility Act, we need to do find a way to keep our highways from falling into disrepair.

I have been looking for short term solutions and just last week the Senate voted on my bill, the Long Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011. This bill was designed to speed up transportation construction projects and provide employers with relief from burdensome federal regulations. All without taxing job creators or adding a dime to the nation’s debt. Unfortunately this bill did not pass and the April expiration is looming.

The next attempt to address highway funding in the near-term will be the bill that wasrecently produced by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. I am currently reviewing this bill and am concerned that the Highway Trust Fund does not have the funds to keep the programs operating. The money in the Highway Trust Fund comes from the gas taxes we pay every time we fill our cars. A gas tax increase is a bad idea, especially during this time when our economy is already struggling.

As the lead Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, I’m working with my colleague from Montana, Senator Max Baucus, and all the Committee members to find a reasonable way to extend the highway bill. There is bipartisan will to get this done and I’m confident we will.

Get to know you questions:

What city do you live in and why do you enjoy living there?

Elaine and I live in Salt Lake City. It is nice to be in Utah’s capitol city. It is wonderful to walk to so many interesting places. Elaine and I have been able to enjoy watching the construction and progress of the revitalization of the downtown area right outside our window.

We are fortunate to have so many wonderful cities in Utah. Elaine is from Cache County and my ancestors were pioneers that settled Vernal. Elaine and I have always wished that we could live in Logan in the summers and St. George in the winters.

What is your favorite collegiate sports team in the state?

I thoroughly enjoy watching all of our collegiate sports teams compete and succeed.