By Dave Bauer, senior vice president, government relations, ARTBA
Granite Construction President and CEO Jim Roberts Oct. 11 urged members of the House Highways & Transit Subcommittee to permanently stabilize and grow the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenue stream as part of any package to reform the U.S. tax code.
Roberts, testifying on behalf of the ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), told subcommittee members that while the gas tax is the simplest and most efficient revenue solution to grow federal surface transportation investment, all options should be on the table. He emphasized the TCC’s agreement with the 253 House members who urged the House Ways & Means Committee’s leadership to address the HTF crisis as part of tax reform.
The subcommittee hearing was focused on the role of highways and transit in building a 21st Century infrastructure network. It is part of a series of hearings the full Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is conducting, presumably to help shape the Trump administration infrastructure package initiative.
Roberts refuted recent public assertion from a Trump administration official that there is ample time to deal with the trust fund’s solvency crisis. The executive noted that if states follow past practices, we will begin to see project delays as soon as 12 months from now.
“Stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund in tax reform would provide a foundation and platform for a broad-based, transformative infrastructure package,” he said.
Roberts told members that in addition to enacting an HTF fix, Congress should use any emerging infrastructure package to further expedite the transportation project review and approval process. Specifically, he called for reforms that protect infrastructure projects from frivolous lawsuits and suggested merging overlapping permitting requirements among different federal agencies.
Roberts also defended the recently enacted California state gas tax increase now under attack by the California Republican Party. The state party is pushing a ballot initiative to repeal the tax as a means to drive out Republican turnout in the 2018 election.
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told the subcommittee that while he thinks a gas tax increase is the most straight forward way to fix the HTF, Congress should also be looking at other options. Subcommittee member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) called for a “diversification” of the HTF revenue streams.