Senate Committee Gets Serious About Infrastructure

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee officially kicked off its transportation reauthorization efforts Jan. 28 with a hearing featuring panels consisting of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the governors of Alabama and Vermont, as well as the South Dakota Secretary of Transportation, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).

In his opening statement, Foxx was adamant and urged Congress to put politics aside and reach agreement on a long-term bill. The governors called upon Congress to pass a long-term highway bill that provides their states funding certainty.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La. stated during his questioning of Foxx that Congress has three realistic options for fixing the Highway Trust Fund – a gas tax hike paired with a tax cut of some other type, repatriation or diverting some of the revenues generated from additional domestic energy production. Vitter said he hoped to “cut to the chase” and avoid solutions either party would find unacceptable.

As he previously told NSSGA in a meeting, Vitter said in the hearing he believes a hike in the 18.4 cents-per-gallon fuel tax could pass “if paired with a lower-middle class and middle-class tax cut” to offset the costs for consumers; tax repatriation would not be “a truly permanent solution,” but enough to fund a long-term bill; and royalties from increased domestic energy production could be part of a solution. However, the scope of expansion (and therefore the amount of revenue generated) was likely to be a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans.

“The good news from the hearing is that all members and witnesses talked about the importance of the nation’s road and highway network to the country and the imperative to take action on a new authorization bill,” NSSGA said on its website.

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