Kasich calls for gas tax elimination, tolling

John Kasich
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Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in favor of eliminating the federal gas tax and increasing the use of tolling to pay for U.S. roads and bridge repairs. 

"Here's what i'm going to do: I'm going to ship transportation [and] infrastructure back to the states," he said during a Thursday town hall event in Hanover, N.H. that was broadcast Friday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

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"Here's how it works in Washington: You take your gas money, you send it to Washington, the politicians divide it up, come up with a bunch of pork and then they send less back to us," Kasich continued. "What do we need them to send it for? Let's just keep here in New Hampshire and in Ohio and we can tax ourselves and pay for our roads." 

The comments come as Congress is scrambling to meet an Oct. 29 deadline for renewing federal transportation funding. 

Congress has been struggling for years to come up with a way to pay for a long-term extension. The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon. The federal government spends about $50 billion per year on roads, but the gas tax only brings in $34 billion.

Transportation advocates have resisted proposals to eliminate the gas tax, which are usually referred as "devolution," arguing that the federal government is best suited to handle transportation infrastructure that runs between states, like highways. 

Kasich said Friday that he would allow states to other funding sources for transportation projects, like tolling. 

"I believe in tolling at times," he said. "We toll our turnpike. Do you know that if there's federal money in a road, you're not allowed to toll it? That's ridiculous. 

"There's millions of ways states can be creative in terms of infrastructure," Kasich continued. "I don't want to send my tax dollars to Washington to have the transportation committee [decide how to spend it]. … I'd leave the money here." 

Present law requires states to construct new lanes on highways that they want to add tolls to unless they are granted an exemption, which has thus far been limited to three states. Those states — Virginia, Missouri and North Carolina — have not moved forward with a tolling expansion. 

Tolling advocates in Washington have said Congress should make it easier for states to add tolls as federal transportation funding has dried up, but foes of the proposal have said that adding fees to existing highways would drive traffic onto side streets. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated it will take about $100 billion, in addition to the annual gas tax revenue, to pay for a six-year transportation funding bill.

Kasich touted transportation improvements that have been made in Ohio during his tenure as governor.  

"I have the most robust infrastructure program in Ohio history," he said. "We spent an extra $1 billion and when you go through our state, it's amazing what you find."