A growing number of governors are signaling support for increasing taxes on gas and diesel fuel because they no longer find Congress to be a reliable funding partner for infrastructure. The leaders from Indiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi are among the dozen governors drumming up support for raising fuel taxes, instead of opting for alternative funding fixes, such as public-private partnerships.
Governors are arguing that the effects from years of advancing federal transportation bills without a long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund are finally catching up. They add that operating the trust fund through a series of funding patches has hindered long-term planning for projects that could reshape the country’s megaregions.
And, as recently as in the State of the States address last month, governors urged the White House to lead the way in advancing a massive infrastructure package that would help repair bridges, alleviate congestion along freight corridors and replace pipelines.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, a panel with jurisdiction over surface transportation, will host state officials Feb. 8. The officials — William "Bill" Panos, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation; Cindy Bobbitt, commissioner of Grant County, Oklahoma; and Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation — are expected to reject the notion of devolving to the states the responsibility of funding massive transportation projects. The officials also are likely to point out that the private sector alone is not able to restore infrastructure networks.
Governors, led by Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, will hammer home that message when they meet in Washington in February for the National Governors Association winter meeting. Infrastructure Week in May also will serve as a forum for state leaders to stress the point.
President Trump pledged to advance a huge infrastructure funding bill during his first 100 days in office that would fix crumbling airports, pipelines and freight corridors. Leadership from the White House and Congress on infrastructure could help a state avoid raising taxes.
WATCH: INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK PREVIEW
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Feb. 7, 2 p.m.: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduces his “Buy American” legislation aimed at ensuring tax dollars are spent in the United States.
Feb. 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “A Look Ahead: Inspector General Recommendations for Improving Federal Agencies.”
Feb. 8, 9:30 a.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion on congressional Republicans’ blueprint for a new structure for taxing the business income for certain entities.
Feb. 8, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing on infrastructure.
Feb. 8-10: The House Democratic Caucus hosts its Issues Conference in Baltimore.
Feb. 9, 10 a.m.: The U.S. Postal Service holds a conference call briefing on its fiscal 2017 first-quarter financial results.
Feb. 9, 12 p.m.: The National Economists Club hosts Keith Hall, director of the Congressional Budget Office, for a conversation titled, "The CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017-2027."
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Driver training: In the agency’s first reaction to a Jan. 20 presidential directive freezing and delaying many new regulatory actions, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials said they are postponing the effective date of the entry-level driver training final rule.
Sen. Fischer: Legislation that would transfer revenue into the federal Highway Trust Fund from U.S. Customs and Border Protection was unveiled in the first week of February by Sen. Deb Fischer, the top trucking authorizer in the Senate, a move aimed at addressing the country’s outdated and deficient transportation network.
Delaware bridge: The Delaware River Bridge will remain closed for a minimum of eight more weeks.
WHAT WE'RE READING:
Public-private partnerships get a closer look, courtesy of the Reason Foundation.
“I worry that we might have a government shutdown of some duration then, because it’s the natural temptation to take a must-pass bill and add a lot of things to it.”
— Jeff Davis, senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation, speaking to Transport Topics on Jan. 31 and referring to federal appropriations that expire April 28.
The leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee run into a big friendly guy in Florida.
Brought Sen. Thune to the Everglades today to show him what we’re restoring – got to show him something else you won’t see in South Dakota pic.twitter.com/DZfEr2f2wv— Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) February 3, 2017