By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA
ARTBA’s Transportation Makes America Work (TMAW) advocacy program is focused exclusively on building and protecting the transportation construction market.
TMAW operates like a political campaign, utilizing tactics that support the transportation construction industry’s policy priorities, legal activities and grassroots lobbying efforts. These tactics include coalition development and leadership, issue advertising, consultant support, social and digital media, websites, videos and publications, public opinion polling, economic research and analysis, media outreach and special events.
TMAW’s primary focus is not the general public; rather the target audiences are inside the D.C. Beltway: members of Congress and their staffs, federal agency officials, the White House, think tanks and other policy organizations, as well as D.C. and Capitol Hill media outlets.
During the past 25 years, the TMAW program was key to passage of four highway and transit investment laws, including: TEA-21 (1998), SAFETEA-LU (2005), MAP-21 (2012) and FAST Act (2015).
TMAW was also the driving force behind ARTBA’s legal efforts that helped ensure transportation projects moved forward in Baltimore, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Salt Lake City in the early 2000s. It helped overturn a decision in 2013 declaring Virginia’s P3 law unconstitutional. If allowed to stand, the decision would have been a threat to P3 enabling statutes nationwide. And it worked to overturn a lower court decision blocking construction of Maryland’s Purple Line rail project in 2017. TMAW investments are currently supporting ARTBA’s defense of President Donald Trump’s repeal and rewrite of the 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.
ARTBA President Dave Bauer sat down with Transportation Builder’s editorial team to discuss the program.
TB: When and how did TMAW start?
BAUER: The TMAW advocacy concept has been around since 1989. In the early years, it was known as BABATT— Building a Better America Through Transportation. It was launched to build political support for a major boost in highway funding related to the next authorization bill, which eventually became the 1991 ISTEA law signed by President George H.W. Bush. The name changed to TMAW in the late 1990s.
TB: How is TMAW structured? How does it work?
BAUER: Think of TMAW as the funding umbrella organization for a host of advocacy initiatives that help execute the industry’s agenda on Capitol Hill, in the regulatory and legal arenas, and at the state level since the 2014 launch of our Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™. Membership dues in large part support the association’s D.C. operations and member service programs, whereas TMAW contributions from ARTBA member firms, organizations and state chapters are advocacy-focused, and are therefore over and above their dues. TMAW allows us to back allies that help advance our transportation investment and regulatory agenda. These include the Transportation Construction Coalition, which we co-chair with AGC, The Road Information Program and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Americans for Transportation Mobility coalition. Our goal through TMAW is to keep the political pressure on Congress and the Executive Branch to act on critical transportation investment policy and regulatory issues. When necessary, TMAW’s resources are also directed to the legal arena to address threats aimed at stopping or delaying transportation improvements.
TB: What are specific activities on ARTBA’s advocacy agenda that TMAW bolsters?
BAUER: In 2020, our mission is clear: helping ensure passage of a robust infrastructure investment package that includes a permanent solution for the Highway Trust Fund. Beyond the coalition support, public opinion polling, grassroots tools and advocacy advertising, TMAW helps ensure we retain top D.C. consultants, including Ballard Partners. The firm, led by Brian Ballard, has the best-connected lobby shop with the Trump administration and has been able to regularly facilitate meetings with key White House staff and agency officials. We also continue to receive technical and legislative assistance from the tax and finance professionals from Ernst & Young. They have been invaluable during our meetings with the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service.
TB: Why not just make TMAW activities part of dues?
BAUER: Our advocacy activities are impacted by the external environment. While our work in this area never stops, potential opportunities and threats can necessitate that we ramp up our efforts. A case in point was the robust TMAW push in 2017 as we attempted to include a Highway Trust Fund fix as part of comprehensive tax reform. By contrast, our core operational activities require constant focus and are more long-term in nature. The one-two punch of TMAW and membership dues allow us to be responsive and transparent in how we raise and use the resources our members invest with us.
TB: Who supports TMAW?
BAUER: The program is generously supported each year by 30-50 companies, state chapter affiliates and other organizations with a direct stake in the transportation market. The Senate has a five-year highway reauthorization bill—America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act—that includes a 27 percent increase in investment. The House has just released its principles for an infrastructure package that call for investment levels well beyond the Senate bill. And President Trump Feb. 4 called for the passage of the Senate bill this year. These are obviously positive developments and we remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects for action. That’s why we are asking all ARTBA members to consider supporting TMAW—now—so that the industry has the necessary resources to fight the good fight.
(Editor’s Note: This story appears in the January/February issue of ARTBA’s Transportation Builder magazine.)