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Lessons from recent successes: Winning State Funding for Transportation

Growing again after a long economic slump that left a huge backlog of unmet needs, a dozen or more states are moving now to raise revenue for transportation. What can they learn from the other states that acted in the last year or two? Our new report, out today, draws out seven key lessons.

Transportation for America has closely followed these efforts in state legislatures to put transportation funding on sound footing and today we are releasing Winning State Funding for Transportation: Lessons from Recent Successes. This short report highlights some of the big-picture keys to success gleaned from those states, with an in-depth look at successful campaigns in Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wyoming, and Vermont.

States face an increasing challenge in funding their mounting transportation needs. Their primary sources of revenue — taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel — haven’t kept up with needs as vehicles become more efficient, per-person driving mileage declines, and construction costs rise along with inflation.

Though the financial picture varies from state to state, this is a pressing issue from coast to coast. Twenty-four states have gone a decade or more without raising their gas taxes. Aging infrastructure is in need of desperate repair and the demands coming from demographic and economic changes mean states need more revenue, not less.

Since 2012, 12 states have responded to that challenge by enacting new revenue sources for transportation, while dozens more have considered such legislation. And the list of states taking up this issue right now during 2015 legislative sessions is just as long.

It is important to note that all of the states that have acted thus far, and those working to do so this year or beyond are doing so in expectation of ongoing federal support.

One key lesson worth noting up front: Legislators who supported such moves have met with little to no pushback at the polls. In fact, a Transportation for America analysis of the most recent election cycle found that 98 percent of the supportive lawmakers up for re-election won the primary following their vote – and we found no evidence that any lost as a direct result of their vote.

So far this year, nine governors spanning from Washington to Connecticut, representing both parties, have stepped out in favor of raising transportation revenue publicly in their State of the State addresses. Their leadership follows a trend of bucking the conventional wisdom and supporting new revenue to invest in transportation.

The strategies and examples discussed in this report are intended to be a helpful guide for those emerging leaders as they navigate the unique context of their own individual states to pass transportation revenue legislation, and in turn, set an example for others to follow in the future

Read or download the report today. Visit our home for information on states attempting or succeeding at passing new funding legislation, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.