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February 15, 2018 1:15 PM, EST

House Committee Approves Guiding Principles for Infrastructure Bill

Sen. Tom Carper Carper by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Legislation that would address growing funding demands for infrastructure projects should reduce regulations, and connect agencies with private investors, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee indicated in a pronouncement members easily adopted Feb. 14.

Infrastructure legislation also should rely on “smart investments, consistent with the fundamental federal role,” as well as empower “states and local governments,” and promote and develop “integrated transportation systems.”

“Throughout our nation’s history, economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity have followed investments in the nation’s infrastructure,” the committee’s “views and estimates” document stated, adding that an infrastructure bill should encourage technological solutions and promote innovation.

Views and Estimates by Transport Topics on Scribd

Transportation authorizers have not scheduled hearings to legislate on infrastructure. A proposal President Donald Trump unveiled Feb. 12 calls for accessing $200 billion to leverage nonfederal investments totaling $1.3 trillion over 10 years. The proposal did not address the Highway Trust Fund’s impending insolvency.

After transportation authorizers in Congress met with Trump at the White House Feb. 14, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), one of the attendees, said the president endorsed a fuel tax increase. The White House has not confirmed such sentiment.

“To my surprise, President Trump, today in our meeting, offered his support for raising the gas and diesel tax by 25 cents a gallon and dedicating that money to improve our roads, highways, and bridges,” Carper said in a statement provided to reporters. “I explained to the president what I have proposed for years now — raising the gas and diesel tax 4 cents per year over 4 years and indexing it going forward. President Trump came back to the idea of a 25-cent increase several times throughout the meeting. While there are a number of issues on which President Trump and I disagree, today, we agreed that things worth having are worth paying for, and the president even offered to help provide the leadership necessary so that we could do something that has proven difficult in the past.”

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is scheduled to explain the White House’s proposal to Carper’s Environment and Public Works Committee March 1.

The rate of the federal fuel tax no longer is able to keep the trust fund solvent. States rely on the fund for massive maintenance and construction projects. Since 1993, the gas and diesel tax have been 18.4 cents per gallon, and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.

Key freight stakeholders, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, continue to call on Congress to approve an increase. Opposition, however, comes from most Republicans. Pushback to the fuel tax increase stems primarily from Republican opinion leader Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“Republicans will never pass a tax hike on working Americans,” Norquist tweeted Feb. 14. “The swamp is engaged in wishful thinking.”