Supporters of the new transportation bill argued that the gas tax did not generate enough money to pay for road and transit projects that were needed because of increased fuel efficiency of modern automobiles. They also cited a Congressional Budget Office projection that the Highway Trust Fund would go bankrupt in 2013 without Congress providing additional revenue.
Erickson argued in his blog post that the federal deficit was a bigger deal than the projected shortfall in transportation funding.
"We’re at $16 trillion in debt and as the sun rises this morning we are reminded of two things: the Republicans are not serious about paying down the debt and many outside conservative groups will politely avert their eyes arguing that we must fight Barack Obama, not stop the Republican’s complicity in bankrupting our nation," he wrote. "So much for credibility in the argument on spending."
The anti-tax group Club for Growth also said Thursday that it was opposed to the transportation bill compromise, sending an alert to its members calling for lawmakers to vote against the deal and promising to hold votes in against them before November's election.
"The Club urges all members of Congress to vote against this bill," the alert said. "This will be a key vote on the Club's 2012 congressional scorecard."
Republicans on the 47-member conference committee have defended the highway bill compromise, arguing that is consistent with conservative fiscal principles.
"As with any compromise we didn’t get everything we wanted, but I believe we truly have a good bill – one conservatives can be proud to support," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement after the agreement was officially announced.
"We reduced the number of programs by two-thirds; eliminated or consolidated those that are duplicative or don’t serve a national transportation goal; got rid of numerous bureaucratic hurdles; we were able to slash the lengthy and often duplicative environmental review process from an average of 15 years down to 7; we found ways to increase the role of state and local governments while working to get the federal government out of the way at every opportunity; and we made sure that states were able to spend highway money on their highest priorities rather than being forced to address Washington’s priorities," he continued.
-This post was updated at 12:17 p.m.