By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA
Last year’s tax bill was a first punch to help spur economic growth and enhance U.S. economic competitiveness, but, “it was punch one in our opinion,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane told a group of journalists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Summit Jan. 18. “Punch two is a robust infrastructure package from our government that will upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure network.”
Ruane said the nation doesn’t need, or want, another temporary solution. “While any infrastructure package should be comprehensive, its foundation must be a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall,” he said.
At an Infrastructure Summit briefing, the Chamber called for a 25 cent increase in the federal gas tax to help spur infrastructure investment, either a 5 cent per year increase for five years, or a 25 cent increase all at once. Ruane commended the Chamber for calling for the increase, noting the fuels tax has “stood the test of time and is the most effective and transparent revenue source to support federal surface transportation investment.”
“Look no further than the last five years, 26 states have demonstrated there are no political ramifications to increasing the gas tax,” he said.
Other members of the panel assembled for the briefing included National Retail Federation President & CEO Matthew Shay, Association of American Railroads President & CEO Edward Hamberger, American Beverage Association President & CEO Susan Neely, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tom Donohue, and National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association President & CEO Michael Johnson. Hamberger reiterated the number one issue at stake is restoring the revenue stream of the trust fund.
The Chamber’s four-part plan also calls for streamlining permitting, guaranteeing federal loan programs continue, and taking action to ensure there are enough trained workers. Many participants in the summit noted immigration reform could be a major issue for the transportation construction industry and its workforce, with thousands of legal workers classified as “TPS” or “DACA” faced with the possibility of deportation.