The full Senate agreed recently to include Senator Mike Lee’s proposal to reform transportation funding in a package of amendments on the Highway Trust Fund. The Transportation Empowerment Act would allow states to keep the vast majority of revenue each raises through the gas tax, making it easier and more effective for communities to develop the transportation system they want and need. Nearly half the states are already taking steps to become more fiscally independent in how they fund transportation projects, said Sen. Lee. This legislation would make that process easier and empower all 50 states to be more responsive to the needs of their citizens. The states already own and maintain the roads. There is no good reason why they should have to send their citizen’s infrastructure money to Washington first. The Transportation Empowerment Act phases down the federal gas tax over five years from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents and transfers highway authority from the federal government to the states. Under this new system, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached, Lee added. Instead, states and cities could plan, finance and build smarter and more affordable projects. Lee’s plan would ignite a new era of infrastructure innovation and diversity. Some communities could choose to build more roads, while others might prefer to repair old ones. Some might build highways, others light-rail. And all would be free to experiment with innovative green technologies and new ways to finance their projects, like congestion pricing and smart tolls. For the country as a whole, this plan would mean a better infrastructure system, new jobs and opportunities, diverse localism, and innovative environmental protection. Americans know we need more roads, bridges, lanes and mass-transit systems. My plan will not only allow local communities to develop infrastructure projects according to their own needs and values, but will allow their dollars to go further by cutting out the political middle-men in Washington. Properly planned and located, these projects would help create new jobs, new communities, more affordable homes, shorter commuting times and greater opportunity for businesses and families, said Lee. Lee’s stand-alone bill (S.1702) has been cosponsored by Senators Rubio, Cruz, Roberts and Johnson, while a House companion (HR3486) introduced by Rep. Tom Graves has 49 cosponsors.