District 14 U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Calhoun, also addressed some recent foreign affairs issues during the August meeting of the Paulding Builders Association at the Dallas Civic Center.
Graves, whose multi-county district includes all of Paulding, said he filed recent legislation titled the Transportation Empowerment Act to allow individual states to collect the federal gasoline tax and determine how to spend the tax revenue collected in those states.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently told Congress the federal highway trust fund was running an $11 billion deficit. It needed more revenue or the federal government would stop sending money to the states for highway and bridge repairs.
“It was a bold statement for him – in essence, a threat – to say, ‘Raise taxes so we have more revenue to fulfill too many promises that [the federal government] made,” Graves said.
Congress provided some relief through some temporary funding but still will face the shortfall again in seven months, he said.
He said the original federal excise tax of 3 cents per gallon in the mid-1950s was designed to pay for six interstate highways. However, the original six and many other interstates were completed while that tax increased to the current 18.4 cents per gallon.
In addition, the federal government has made areas like Georgia into donor states for less populated areas that do not collect as much gasoline tax, he said. As a result, Georgia receives only about 84 percent of what it pays out in federal gas taxes for highways, costing the state $185 million annually, Graves said.
On other issues, Graves said the U.S. must be “engaged” in the fight against militant group the Islamic State, which is working from bases in Syria to take ground and infrastructure in Iraq.
“We cannot sit idly by,” he said. “It’s very important we take this threat seriously.”
He also said he recently traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and see firsthand the conflict between the Jewish state and the militant group Hamas.
Graves said he voted to give Israel $225 million for its “Iron Dome” defense system which protects populated areas from incoming missile attacks.
“It’s very important we stand strong with Israel,” he said.