March 4, 2019 – What we have here, is a failure to communicate. That is the view of several key transportation association executives, expressed during a recent roundtable session at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ 2019 Washington Briefing.
“It’s easy to talk about it, but hard to start advancing bills,” said Dave Bauer, president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). Bauer noted that ARTBA’s top three priorities where funding infrastructure is concerned are “fix the Highway Trust Fund, fix the Highway Trust Fund, and fix the Highway Trust Fund. We’re trying to fix an $18 billion revenue shortfall. To shore it up we’ve used $140 billion in gimmicks and general fund transfers for the last 10 years. So this is no longer about a temporary plug to fill the Highway Trust Fund; we need to look for a long-term solution. There is very little discussion about what we’re getting in return [from transportation funding]. Hard thing to do when talking about calling for revenue increases. That’s where we are falling short,” Bauer explained.
Matt Chase, executive director and CEO of the National Association of Counties, added that “changing the narrative” on fuel tax increases is a key part of that process. “We need to remind folks that the last time we increased the federal gas tax, the minimum wage was $4 an hour. It used to cost $300,000 per mile to build a road; now it’s $1 million per mile,” he said. “Yet I spend more on my subscription to Netflix every year than on state and federal gas taxes. So we need to get outside the Beltway and tell this story to the voter; that if they spend money on a gas tax increase, they’ll get a good return for it. We can’t take it for granted.”