House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx March 19 reaffirmed their commitment to finding a long-term transportation funding solution. Both noted some lawmakers are considering the option of a one-time “toll” on overseas foreign accounts currently going untaxed—a proposal that would require a comprehensive re-write of the U.S. tax code to implement. If a resolution is not reached within the next six weeks, Shuster warned of the possibility for a temporary extension for the Highway Trust Fund.
Shuster stated, “I feel confident that we will do a long-term bill, a five- or six-year bill— because both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, everybody’s talking about a long-term bill.” The event, “Running on Empty: Tackling America’s Infrastructure Crisis” was sponsored by “National Journal” and held at D.C.’s Newseum.
Foxx stressed the importance of long-term federal funding in order for states to plan and develop projects, without which there is the potential for economic impacts and job loss. Shuster mentioned looking for a new transportation funding framework that could involve public-private partnerships, sales taxes and bonds. Both he and Foxx agreed on the need for a connected, intermodal system.
In a panel session of transportation experts, ARTBA President Pete Ruane was the lone voice in expecting Congress to approve a long-term transportation funding bill before the end of 2015. He outlined ARTBA’s “Getting Beyond Gridlock” proposal announced last week as a comprehensive plan to end the political impasse over how to fund future federal investments in state highway, bridge and transit capital projects. The plan marries a 15 cents-per-gallon increase in the federal gas and diesel motor fuels tax with a 100 percent offsetting federal tax rebate for middle and lower income Americans for six years. It would fund a $401 billion, six-year highway and mass transit capital investment program and provide sustainable, user-based funds to support it for at least the next 10 years.