While the political partisan divide gets a lot of attention these days — and rightfully so — a group of lawmakers has proven that coming together for a common goal may not be such a difficult concept to grasp.
Last week, more than 250 Members of Congress from across the political spectrum recently urged the Ways and Means Committee to find a common-sense solution to one of our nation’s most pressing transportation problems — securing a stable revenue stream for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Led by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the Subcommittee, this action is an example of the kind of bipartisan leadership our country — and our transportation system — so desperately needs.
In case anyone needs a reminder, the HTF was established to help fund highway, bridge and public transit investments. But because the federal gas tax — the user-based fee designed to provide revenue to the fund — hasn’t kept up with the needs of our surface transportation system, the HTF has long teetered on the edge of insolvency.
It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to tell us that a grossly underfunded HTF is bad for our transportation infrastructure, our economy and America’s working families. As a strong majority of the House correctly points out, “[…] if states are unable to rely on timely reimbursements from the HTF for work performed, projects will be halted, improvements to road safety and congestion relief will be jeopardized and America’s infrastructure will fall further behind the rest of the world.”
Translation? Repairing and rebuilding our neglected surface transportation system cannot happen without securing a stable revenue stream for the HTF. To provide stable funding for the HTF, TTD and our affiliated unions have long called for increasing and indexing the federal fuel tax — an approach that has support from a wide array of groups, including business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There are other methods and means of shoring up the HTF to be sure, including some we have endorsed, but the federal fuel tax is a known and established mechanism, and a modest increase can be implemented quickly and efficiently.
With a clear bipartisan consensus forming around the need to shore up the HTF, now would be a good time for an endorsement of this approach by President Trump. The President has shined a much-needed spotlight on the desperate need to fix our nation’s infrastructure, but we won’t get to that fix with speeches alone. If this Administration is serious about finding the resources needed to upgrade and modernize our aging surface transportation system, joining these members of Congress, TTD and business interests in calling for a sustainable user fee, like a gas tax, is a good place to start.