Yesterday 253 congressmen sent a letter to the leadership of the House Ways & Means Committee asking that a long-term fix for Highway Trust Fund be included in their tax reform efforts.
“As the Committee on Ways and Means continues to work toward a much-needed update of the U.S. tax code, you have an opportunity to fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). A long-term solution to the HTF structural revenue deficit would promote increased transportation infrastructure investment and meaningful economic growth in every state,” the letter reads.
The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the chair and ranking member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways & Transit, and was signed by a majority of both Republican and Democrat members.
The HTF is the main funding source for the federal government’s investments in highway and transit infrastructure and is primarily funded through the federal motor fuels tax (aka the ‘gas tax’) of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. At the federal level, the gas tax has not been raised since 1993 and inflation has reduced its purchasing power by 40%. To make up for the dwindling value of the gas tax, Congress has transferred $140 billion from the General Fund to the HTF since 2008, including $70 billion in 2015’s FAST Act. Unless Congress takes action to fix the Trust Fund and provide it with a sustainable and adequate funding source, they will again have to look elsewhere to find billions to fully fund the next surface transportation bill when the FAST Act expires in December 2020.
All HTF revenue increases over the past 30 years have been done as a part of larger tax bills, so the 253 co-signers view the current tax reform push as the perfect opportunity to address this vital issue. Putting it off further is not an option. Already, decades of underinvestment is clearly reflected in the state of our infrastructure. ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card graded the nation’s roads a “D,” bridges a “C+,” and transit a “D-.” The U.S. is on track to invest from federal, state, local, and private sources less than half what is needed in surface transportation over the next decade, leaving a $1.1 trillion gap. Failing to sufficiently invest in America’s deteriorating infrastructure will have a cascading impact on the nation’s economy, impacting business productivity, GDP, employment, personal income, international competitiveness, and, most importantly, public safety. If the surface transportation funding gap is not addressed, the U.S. will lose over $1.2 trillion in GDP and 1.1 million jobs by 2025.