WASHINGTON (June 18, 2015) — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) are among stakeholders continuing their advocacy for long-term transportation funding reauthorization.
At a June 17 hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves urged the committee to act quickly to find a sustainable funding source for the Highway Trust Fund.
“The federal commitment to investment in transportation, if not properly addresseed this year, could be placed in jeopardy for many years, or even decades, to come,” Mr. Graves said in his testimony.
He concentrated on the needs of the U.S. highway system. Interstate congestion alone cost the U.S. trucking industry $9.2 billion in 2013 and wasted more than 141 million hours — the equivalent of 51,000 drivers sitting idle for a full working year, Mr. Graves said.
Funding mechanisms should be uniform across all highway users, based on verifiable highway and vehicle use, not easily evaded, efficient to administer and not a bar to interstate commerce, according to Mr. Graves.
An increase in the federal motor fuel tax, a new highway access fee, royalties from oil and gas leases and a barrel ax on both imported and domestic petroleum would fit these criteria, he said. A heavy vehicle use tax and increasing the excise tax on trucks and truck tires would not.
ARTBA, meanwhile, concentrated on advocating an increase in the gas tax. It joined with other transportation associations June 17 to support the proposal of Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to increase the tax.
“What we want is a long-term funding solution,” said Bill Toohey, ARTBA executive vice president and chief operating officer, adding that even a four- to six-year reauthorization bill would not be adequate.
“Congressman Blumenauer's proposal meets our goal,” Mr. Toohey said. “But it is going to take bipartisan effort and shared bipartisan risk to get the job done.”
The Transportation Construction Coalition, of which ARTBA is a member, also announced a new series of TV, print, radio and digital ads urging commuters to contact their senators and congressmen in support of a gas tax increase.
The ads quote late President Ronald Reagan as endorsing increases in the gas tax to fund highway projects.
“Our highways were built largely with such a user fee — the gasoline tax,” President Reagan said in a November 1982 radio address that is quoted in the ad. “I think it makes sense to follow that principle in restoring them to the condition we all want them to be in.”
In its most recent Weekly Legislative Update, the Tire Industry Association said a gas tax increase is effectively off the table in transportation funding negotiations. The deadline for passage of a new transportation bill is July 31.