Rich Juliano, ARTBA’s senior vice president for strategic initiatives, February 28 appeared at the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists to argue for a strong federal role and renewed national vision for transportation infrastructure. In a panel discussion “All Roads Lead to… a Tax Increase?” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Maryland, Juliano pointed out that investment in a national transportation infrastructure system has its roots in the U.S. Constitution, the writings of Adam Smith and President James Madison, and the vision of several Republican presidents, most recently Ronald Reagan—the last chief executive to propose raising the federal gas tax exclusively for transportation improvements.
Leaders of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes the annual event, invited Juliano to appear in one of a series of policy-based sessions called “ACU University.” Chris Edwards, Cato Institute director of tax policy studies, took the opposing view that responsibility for improving and maintaining transportation infrastructure should largely be devolved to the states or privatized completely. CPAC garners significant media attention each year, largely because numerous Republican presidential hopefuls attend and speak to large and vocal audiences.
Earlier in the week, Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) met with ACU’s Board of Directors to discuss his views on reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs, and how robust federal investment is consistent with conservative values. Inhofe boasts a lifetime ACU rating of nearly 97 percent, according to the most recent information posted by the organization.