House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) released the text of his legislative proposal to increase the quality and stability of U.S. surface transportation and water infrastructure.
“The 2016 presidential campaign shined a spotlight on America’s crumbling infrastructure. Since Election Day, the American people have waited for action by their federal elected representatives, and I am just as frustrated as they are that we have yet to seriously consider a responsible, thoughtful proposal,” Shuster said in a statement. “That is why I have released a discussion draft that reflects input from members on both sides of the aisle, as well as a broad group of infrastructure stakeholders interested in building a 21st century infrastructure for our country.”
The proposal reforms and addresses the short-term and long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), strengthens federal investment on our nation’s infrastructure and codifies the administration’s “One-Federal Decision” for permitting projects and new water authorizations for Water Resources and Economic Development programs.
At this time, the draft bill has no title, no co-sponsors and no bipartisan agreement on the entire package, despite the initial conversations with Democrats on the T&I Committee. However, it includes the following items to shore up the HTF:
- An immediate increase to the existing federal gasoline user fee of 15 cents per gal. over three years and diesel fuel by 20 cents and both increased by rate of inflation.
- Fee added to diesel used by commuter rail.
- 10 percent sales tax on the batteries used in electric vehicles.
- 10 percent sales tax on bicycle tires.
- Broaden the HTF tax base by levying new or increased federal user fees on classes of highway and transit system users who currently pay nothing into the Trust Fund or who pay reduced rates (including mass transit buses no longer receiving a refund on gas taxes paid).
- Fuel user fees would be eliminated Sept. 30, 2028, to possibly be replaced by a new Vehicle Miles Traveled program, which would also finance the Highway Trust Fund.
The Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) weighed in on the proposal.
“AED is greatly appreciative to Chairman Shuster for championing policies to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure in a sustainable manner,” said President Brian P. McGuire. “The Chairman’s proposal acknowledges solutions that AED has urged Congress to enact for the past decade, including increasing the current user fee, ensuring drivers of electric vehicles pay their fair share into the Highway Trust Fund and shifting the nation towards a per-miles-traveled charge or another solution to ensure the long-term viability of the federal highway program. Chairman Shuster has demonstrated leadership and advanced a transformative plan to rebuild America. His congressional colleagues must now accept their responsibility and pass legislation this year that will show the country that Washington is serious about investing our nation’s infrastructure. The American people have waited far too long and it’s time to turn words into action.”
The bill also contains two provisions designed to put the Highway Trust Fund on a path to long-term sustainability.
- Establish a Highway Trust Fund Commission to recommend future long-term Trust Fund solvency proposals that would get an automatic up or down vote in Congress with no amendments or filibusters.
- Direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish a two-year, $15 million pilot program for a national per-mile user fee.
- On the infrastructure investment front, the bill contains a one-year “clean” extension of the FAST Act that would give the future Highway Trust Fund Commission time to come to a new solution. The bill also repeals the $7.6 billion rescission of highway contract authority scheduled by the FAST Act to take place July 1, 2020.
Water infrastructure investment is also addressed by extending the WIFIA loan program, funding authorizations for pending projects, increasing State Revolving Funds and giving the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund some flexibility in spending.
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) used the opportunity of the proposal to talk up its upcoming Legislative & Policy Forum.
“NSSGA’s Legislative & Policy Forum is incredibly well-timed to support an infrastructure proposal like this one,” said Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, NSSGA senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs. “We want to advocate for the future of our country’s infrastructure and ask for support for many of the provisions in this bill. Our best chance to gain congressional support is to have a loud, clear and coordinated voice on Capitol Hill on Sept. 26, during our Legislative & Policy Forum.” NSSGA will arrange for meetings with the members of Congress of each attendee. This way, each person can advocate for a better future for national and local infrastructure and economies.”
The Highway Materials Group issued the following statement:
“The 11 national organizations of the Highway Materials Group (HMG) commend Chairman Shuster on his infrastructure discussion draft. Specifically, we applaud the draft’s focus on ensuring the short-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and its emphasis on looking for ways to make the HTF solvent for the long term. We strongly support the chairman’s call for increases to the motor fuels user fees and call on Congress to make this a reality. Without increases to user fees, the viability of the federal-aid highway program is in jeopardy.
“Additionally, HMG strongly supports the draft’s language on expediting project delivery. The American public expects infrastructure projects to be completed on-time and on-budget. As policymakers and infrastructure industry leaders, we should exceed those expectations and this discussion draft will help achieve results that will benefit road users.
“We urge the committee to ensure that roadway safety programs are robustly funded in any legislative vehicle that emerges from this discussion draft.
“Again, HMG praises and supports Chairman Shuster’s infrastructure discussion draft. Although not a final product, this document furthers the infrastructure and transportation funding conversation. We look forward to working with congressional leaders and the appropriate committees to enact this draft into law.”;
The Highway Materials Group is comprised of 11 national associations that represent companies that provide the construction materials and equipment essential to building America’s roads, highways and bridges:
- American Coal Ash Association.
- American Concrete Pavement Association.
- American Traffic Safety Services Association.
- Associated Equipment Distributors.
- Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
- Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute.
- National Asphalt Pavement Association.
- National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.
- National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.
- Portland Cement Association.
- Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.