NCSL State Legislative Infrastructure Priorities: 2012-2013
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently surveyed state legislators throughout the country on infrastructure priorities in their states. The results reflect uncertainty at the state level on how to fund and plan for new transportation systems and maintenance of existing assets. However, states also are openly considering other sources of funding and new methods to deliver needed projects. Lawmakers were also skeptical that the federal government would provide states the certainty and flexibility needed to plan long-term for their states.
Infrastructure is a priority for state: As seen in the answers below, particularly from the responses in question one, infrastructure is a major priority for states across the board, ranking third behind education and economic development.
Highways and bridges are the highest priority, but other modes matter, too: Building and maintaining roads and bridges was the highest transportation infrastructure priority, but comments and ranking from lawmakers indicated that other modes such as transit, ferries, multi-modal projects, and other solutions are viable and important projects, especially in certain states.
More or less help from the federal government: Lawmakers are divided on the role of the federal government: some want more assistance and leadership on building new transportation systems, while others would prefer less federal intrusion or at the very least, funds with fewer strings attached passed directly on to the states. Comments from legislators reflect a pessimism or distrust of help from the federal government (“The federal government is failing in its responsibility of ensuring that America has the basic infrastructure necessary to remain competitive”) and an awareness that states will likely have to assume more responsibility with regards to infrastructure planning and funding (“They are providing less money so we need to find additional capital if we are going to meet the needs.”)
States believe they will have to shoulder more of the burden: Legislators were pessimistic that the federal government would be able to create a longer-term transportation authorization with a stable funding source and they understand they must take on more responsibility at the state level.
States are willing to explore new funding mechanisms: State legislators were cognizant that existing funding sources, especially gas taxes, would not be sufficient in the future, and were intrigued by or actively considering other methods of paying for and financing transportation infrastructure, such as public-private partnerships (PPPs), vehicle miles fees, tolling and bonding.
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