Coalition Presses Chairman to Include Highway Fund Fix in Tax System Reform

AASHTO Journal, 15 July 2016

The 31 national association and construction trade union members of the Transportation Construction Coalition told House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, they were “disappointed” that he did not include a permanent Highway Trust Fund revenue fix when Brady released a tax reform blueprint last month.

The coalition had previously called for Brady to include in any tax overhaul plan provisions for a permanent solution for the HTF’s structural revenue deficit, in which its dedicated excise taxes fall far short of annual trust fund spending on highway, transit and freight projects.

dollarpump.jpgIn a July 7 letter, the coalition also noted that a bipartisan group of 130 House members also urged the Ways and Means chairman “to make permanently stabilizing the HTF a priority for any tax reform proposal.”

But, the group wrote, “we were disappointed to see addressing this critical issue was not included in the plan you released June 24.”

The letter is along a number of actions that supporters of infrastructure investment programs are taking to keep project investment needs on the public agenda, even with a new five-year surface transportation funding law. Many say that FAST Act provided only modest funding increases, which will not be enough to prevent traffic congestion and road conditions from getting worse.

Currently, some candidates in the November elections are calling for major new transportation investments to both bolster the slow-growing economy and to attack a huge backlog of projects to improve mobility.

Transportation groups have also used major occasions including the 60th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System on June 29 to highlight both the success of past investment programs and the need for more.

That day, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the American Trucking Associations held a three-hour “lunch and policy discussion” at the Washington, D.C., National Press Club. Among the speakers was Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee and was one of the FAST Act authors.

Inhofe told the group he thought Congress would be able to fix the long-term funding issues for the HTF in the context of a broader tax reform package.

In that July 7 letter to Rep. Brady, the coalition said that “all adjustments to the HTF’s revenue stream in the past thirty years have occurred as part of a broad tax or budget package. Generating permanent trust fund revenues outside of surface transportation program reauthorization legislation ensures federal tax policy is made in a holistic manner that considers the impacts on both individuals and the overall economy.”

The groups warned that “failure to address the HTF’s revenue shortfall as part of a comprehensive measure would increase the likelihood of Congress again shifting funds from elsewhere in the budget – at the expense of other economic sectors – to support another in a long string of one-time trust fund infusions.”

But they said finding “a permanent, growth-supporting revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund would achieve many of the economic and fiscal objectives of both parties. We urge you to make addressing the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue shortfall a key priority as your committee continues to move forward with the tax reform process.”

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