By Dean Franks, senior vice president for congressional relations, ARTBA
ARTBA and 14 other national associations and labor unions have used the lull in negotiations on the latest COVID-19 relief package to press both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for action on the transportation front.
In a Aug. 8 letter to congressional leadership followed by a Aug. 18 letter to President Donald Trump, the groups outlined the need to guard against any attempts to suspend or repeal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) resources without adequate replacements and to provide direct federal assistance to state departments of transportation (DOTs).
An effort has been made by some Washington, D.C.-based groups to suspend or permanently repeal the 12 percent heavy truck and trailer purchase federal excise tax (FET), a user fee that in 2019 contributed $5.5 billion to the HTF. The proponents claim this move will produce economic and environmental benefits in the manufacturing and trucking sectors.
ARTBA has supported past campaigns to replace the FET with another long-term, sustainable, user-based revenue source. However, the latest effort has not prioritized replacing the reduced HTF proceeds with an adequate revenue stream. Not surprisingly, such a plan is a non-starter for the transportation, construction, and labor communities. ARTBA hosted an Aug. 10 call with its state contractor chapter affiliates to discuss and strategize on the matter.
The letters also reiterated support for the infusion of $37 billion in federal funding for state DOTs as outlined by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO). That’s the amount AASHTO estimates will be lost through FY 2024 because of pandemic-related drop off in dedicated user fee revenues.
ARTBA will continue to push back on any effort to suspend or repeal HTF user-fees and advocate for direct state DOT relief.