By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
House Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Ranking Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are gathering support among other House members for a letter urging the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee to include a permanent Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenue plan in any tax reform bill. Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has indicated the panel will produce a tax code rewrite proposal by June. Brady told a Washington, D.C., audience in April that a HTF fix was not part of the committee’s tax reform agenda “at this time.”
While federal highway and public transportation investment is temporarily stabilized, the HTF will again be threatened with insolvency in 2020 and the annual shortfall of resources needed to prevent dramatic cuts in surface transportation investment will continue to grow until a real solution is put in place. Specifically, the Grave-Norton letter states:
“A safe, modern and efficient transportation network is critical to the economic success of this country. It allows businesses to move their products across the country while facilitating access to domestic markets and suppliers, which makes it more cost-effective for companies to manufacture goods in the United States. Simply put, if the HTF is unable to make payments to states, projects will be halted, improvements to road safety and congestion will be jeopardized, and America’s infrastructure will fall behind the rest of the world. This would put our businesses – and the American worker – at a significant disadvantage in the competitive global economy.”
The letter also correctly notes that all Highway Trust Fund revenue increases since 1982 have come as part of broad-based tax and budget packages, as opposed to surface transportation program reauthorization bills. As such, the Ways & Means Committee’s current work on a tax reform plan is prime opportunity to address the HTF’s structural revenue deficit before the next cash flow crisis.
Securing signatures for the Grave-Norton letter was a prime objective of participants at the ARTBA Federal Issues Program and Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In, which concluded May 11. Our work on this important initiative, however, cannot end there and your representative needs to hear from you about the importance of signing the Graves-Norton letter, which emphasizes: “Every possible solution should be on the table.”
Use the Grassroots Action Center, or call your Representative at 202.225.3121 and ask them to show their support for once and for all ending the HTF gimmicks and short-term patches, and providing states with real certainty about future federal highway and public transportation investment, by signing the Graves-Norton letter.