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January 12, 2018 4:45 PM, EST
Gov. Brian Sandoval's State of the States Address Highlights Highway Trust Fund
Sandoval at CES Sandoval (center) at CES by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund is a pressing concern that needs to be resolved with statewide collaboration and federal support, according to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Infrastructure — and the role of both state and federal government agencies in supporting it — was one of the chief priorities Sandoval mentioned in the National Governors Association’s State of the States address. He delivered the speech alongside Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Jan. 12 at the Consumer Electronics Show’s government conference in Las Vegas.

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The Highway Trust Fund account backs states with funding assistance through revenue collected from federal gas and diesel taxes. Improvements in fuel consumption and shifting driving habits contributed to the account’s steady decline, prompting several general fund transfers in recent years to maintain its solvency.

“States must invest in quality infrastructure to meet our nation’s needs,” Sandoval said. “Successful state action shouldn’t signal a desire for federal disengagement. States need a strong and steady federal partner.”

Sandoval also emphasized the importance of federal support for state projects. He cited the nation’s extensive interstate system, 500 miles of which run through Nevada and 1,200 miles of which run through Montana, as an area that needs attention.

“[We] cannot maintain it alone,” Sandoval said. “Every governor understands the importance of a balanced partnership between the federal government and the states to ensure our transportation network provides a reliable platform for commerce.”

The Highway Trust Fund and President Donald Trump’s infrastructure package were areas of concern for state leaders at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting. Jennifer Cohan, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, said the plan, rumored for release later in January, needs to outline definite revenue mechanisms that states can rely on.

Bullock

Although the details of Trump’s infrastructure plan remain a mystery, the White House has explained that $200 billion would come from existing federal accounts, while the remaining $800 billion will come from private sector investments.

According to Sandoval, the role of a governor is to innovate without bending to politics and partisanship, a sentiment that Bullock echoed. Bullock said innovation comes in many forms, from adopting technology to mining and applying data.

“NGA is a way for governors to share the unique challenges we face,” Bullock said. “It’s essential for governors of all political stripes to see common ground. We need to help provide an environment and regulatory framework to allow the innovation opportunities.”