By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
ARTBA told the Senate Finance Committee that including a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF) structural revenue deficit in the chamber’s anticipated tax reform proposal would improve the chances of the package getting enacted and provide a meaningful down payment on any infrastructure package.
“We recognize any tax reform legislation will be a heavy lift,” ARTBA wrote a July 17 letter. “In our view, adding essential HTF revenue modifications to the package that provides funds for transportation infrastructure investments in every state can only improve the odds of moving a tax bill through Congress.”
ARTBA’s comments were in response to Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) call for feedback and recommendations on the committee’s efforts to update the U.S. tax code.
ARTBA pointed out that all HTF revenue enhancements over the past 30 years have come as part of broader tax or budget legislation. We reminded that in 2015 a bipartisan Finance Committee tax reform working group highlighted the nexus between tax reform and the HTF, stating:
“[O]ur working group believes fundamental tax reform provides an opportunity to simplify the tax code, provide certainty to taxpayers and expand economic growth. Further, the Highway Trust Fund, which for all purposes is broke, provides an option to handle two of our country’s most pressing problems: providing sufficient resources to fund highways and providing a competitive, permanent tax code for taxpayers.”
We also noted that 253 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives—a majority of each party—signed a letter urging the House Ways & Means Committee to include a long-term HTF solution in that chamber’s tax reform package.
The comments emphasized that the economic growth and productivity enhancements that would be driven by a sustainable increase in federal surface transportation investment would align with the stated tax reform goals from both parties.
We concluded by telling the panel:
“And by long-term solution, we do not mean a four- to six-year patch from repatriated overseas profits of a few large companies or some other one-off mechanisms. After more than $140 billion in general fund transfers to the HTF since 2008, it is time to end short-term thinking that just creates another revenue crisis for a future Congress to solve. We need a sustainable funding solution to put this critical national program back on solid footing for the next decade.”