Federal Highway Administration Backtracks on Obama-Era “Greenhouse Gas” Tracking Measure

(WASHINGTON)—The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) May 19 decision to suspend a controversial Obama Administration proposal requiring the tracking of “greenhouse gas” (GHG) emissions from transportation improvements will help save taxpayer dollars and prevent those projects from additional unnecessary delays, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says.

The proposal was part of larger performance measures required under the July 2012 “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) surface transportation law. ARTBA had previously argued the measure exceeded “both the authority of the FHWA and the intent of MAP-21.”

The association first raised objections to the measure back in August 2016 comments, noting that neither Congress nor the administration sought emission measurements in the MAP-21 performance management process, and that such a proposal were subsequently not included in the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act reauthorization law passed in December 2015.

ARTBA then followed up the comments by meeting with House and Senate staff, as well as Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials, to express its concerns.  The association also convened a group of nearly 40 trade associations on a letter to FHWA stating, “The simple fact is that MAP-21 was approved with broad bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and the inclusion of an unrelated GHG proposal violates this bipartisan spirit.  It is hard to see this proposal as anything other than a maneuver to achieve a policy objective the prior administration failed to advance in the appropriate legislative arena.”

On a related note, ARTBA also warned the agency not to exceed its authority three years ago, when it urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) not to jeopardize the broad bipartisan congressional support for MAP-21 by including extraneous issues—such as climate change— in the law’s implementation. Specifically, a 2013 ARTBA task force cautioned:

“Focus on the goals enumerated in the law. The authors of MAP-21 had the opportunity to include a host of external goals such as livability, reduction of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of reliance on foreign oil, adaptation to the effects of climate change, public health, housing, land-use patterns and air quality in the planning and performance process….the U.S. Department of Transportation should focus on implementing the goals and standards as spelled out in MAP-21.”

Established in 1902 and headquartered by Capitol Hill, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, the courts and news media.

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Statement Relating to Senate Passage of the DRIVE Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The following is a statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs Pete Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America regarding the Senate’s approval of a multi-year highway/transit bill:

“On behalf of the 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), we applaud the Senate for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill that would guarantee real growth in federal highway and public transportation investment over the next three years.  The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act would also assist state long-term transportation planning by distributing six years of contract authority.

“Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Inhofe and EPW Committee Ranking Member Boxer demonstrated exemplary leadership in finding the common ground necessary to earn overwhelming bipartisan support for the longest duration surface transportation bill approved by either chamber since 2005.  Furthermore, they accomplished this feat before the current short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires.

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.

“We appreciate House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s recent statement reiterating his commitment to producing a multi-year surface transportation bill soon.  Achieving this goal, however, will require House Republican leaders and the Ways & Means Committee to develop a bipartisan plan to generate the resources necessary to grow highway and public transportation investment.  This must be a priority focus over the next six weeks.

“Members of the TCC will spend the August recess making sure all House members hear from their constituents about the need for the House to pass a meaningful, long-term surface transportation bill in September to ensure a final measure can be enacted before the latest short-term extension expires.”

Senate Six-Year Bill Work Continues Despite Another Extension

Senate GOP leaders announced they would accept the three-month surface transportation program extension proposal released by House Republicans. This development in no way should be interpreted as the Senate backing away from its six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.

Senate One Step Closer to Passing Six-Year Highway/Transit Bill

(Washington) The U.S. Senate late July 27 cleared 62 to 32 another procedural hurdle to ensure expedited consideration of a six-year surface transportation program reauthorization bill that grows federal highway and public transportation investment.  The maneuver required 60 votes and assures the Senate will vote on whether or not to approve the “Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act” later this week.

ARTBA Launches Digital Media Campaign Urging Congress to Fix Highway Trust Fund

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(WASHINGTON)—The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) announced the launch of a digital media campaign to amplify the voices of the transportation design and construction industry as Congress nears critical deadlines on how to fund road, bridge and public transit improvement projects.

At issue is the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is the source, on average, of more than 52 percent of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state governments. The current federal highway/transit funding authorization expires on May 31 unless Congress takes action, and the next HTF cash crisis could occur later this summer.

ARTBA is utilizing the platform of Phone2Action, a Washington, D.C.-based digital grassroots company, to help its members and supporters contact Congress more easily through social media, phone calls and email.

With 90 percent of Americans owning cell phones and nearly 75 percent using social media, along with the fact that all 100 U.S. senators and 97 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives have Twitter and Facebook accounts, the Phone2Action platform makes it easy for the industry’s grassroots activists to use their phones or tablets to reach elected officials with messages about the need to fix the HTF and pass a long-term transportation bill.

The new campaign – with the hashtag #fixthetrustfund – launched April 14 during ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program in the Nation’s Capital. In just three days, ARTBA members and industry professionals have connected with hundreds of policy makers, sending more than 1,075 emails, tweets and Facebook postings to their members of Congress, underscoring popular support for fixing the HTF.

The ARTBA campaign is accessible here. Information about the campaign also is being made available through an instant alert text messaging system, which can be accessed by texting HIGHWAY to 52886.


 

Established in 1902, the Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, news media and general public.

State DOTs Continue to Pull Back on Transportation Improvements Over Continued Uncertainty Regarding the Federal Highway Trust Fund, ARTBA Says

Four states have canceled or delayed $780 million in transportation improvement projects and another nine say over $1.8 billion are at risk because of continued uncertainty over whether Congress will take action soon to fix the ailing Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

The Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) reviewed news reports, public statements and testimony from state officials to compile the list featured in a March 24 report.

On average, the HTF is the source of 52 percent of all highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state governments. Funding for the federal highway and transit program expires on May 31 unless Congress acts. The HTF has suffered five revenue shortfalls between 2008 and 2014, and the next cash crisis is expected to occur in summer 2015.

So far in 2015, four states—Ark., Ga., Tenn. and Wyo.—have shelved $779.7 million in projects due to the uncertainty over federal funds.

Nine states—Colo., Conn., Miss., Mont., Neb., Nev., Pa., Vt., and W.Va.—have expressed concern over the feasibility of future transportation infrastructure projects totaling more than $1.8 billion if Congress does not act before May 31. ARTBA expects more states will make similar announcements as the deadline draws nearer.

Last year, before a last-ditch effort by members of Congress led to an extension of MAP-21, DOT officials in 35 states publicly stated that they would be impacted by the precarious HTF situation.

“It’s déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say,” according to ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane. “This is one of the most easily avoidable crises because Congress has known the May deadline was coming for about eight months. Yet, here we are again flirting with another economic meltdown in the peak of the construction season,” he added.

“The continued uncertainty with the Highway Trust Fund has real world, negative impacts as state governments begin cutting back on their construction plans because they don’t know if the funding will be there to pay the bills a few months from now,” Ruane said. “This, in turn, prevents private sector companies from hiring workers and making major capital investments such as purchasing equipment, both of which are key to bolstering economic activity.”

“The clock is on the field. There are 34 legislative calendar days left in the Senate and just 22 days in the House,” Ruane said. “It’s time for Congress and the President to show they can govern and provide a permanent funding solution for America’s highway and transit program.”

Established in 1902, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, federal agencies, the White House, news media and the general public.

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Editor’s Note: The ARTBA report can be found in “current issues” of ARTBA’s government section of www.artba.org.

ARTBA Proposes Path to Breaking Gridlock on Highway/Transit Funding

“Getting Beyond Gridlock” plan would match federal fuels tax increase with offsetting tax rebate for middle and lower income Americans

DSC_0016(WASHINGTON)—The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) today outlined a detailed proposal it believes could end the political impasse over how to fund future federal investments in state highway, bridge and transit capital projects. The “Getting Beyond Gridlock” plan would marry a 15 cents-per-gallon increase in the federal gas and diesel motor fuels tax with a 100 percent offsetting federal tax rebate for middle and lower income Americans for six years. The plan, ARTBA says, would fund a $401 billion, six-year highway and mass transit capital investment program and provide sustainable, user-based funds to support it for at least the next 10 years.

“If our national leaders think they need to use budget gimmicks or ‘one-offs’ again to pass the surface transportation investment program the states need and the business community has been pleading for, then use those devices to provide a $90 tax rebate to middle and lower income tax filers to offset the cost to them of a 15 cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane said in announcing the plan. “Don’t use them to just prop up the program for a few years. That won’t resolve the structural damage that’s been done to the Highway Trust Fund, nor will it allow states to do the long-range capital planning that the nation needs.”

ARTBA has long maintained that an increase in user fees, specifically the federal motor fuels excise rate, is the most efficient way to resolve the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) cash flow problem—now about $15 billion per year—and raise revenue needed to fund expanded capital investments in freight mobility and traffic congestion relief over the next decade. That has also been the recommendation of two blue ribbon commissions mandated by the Congress and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles) appointed by President Obama.

But so far, the politics of a user fee increase has been a stumbling block. The proposed ARTBA plan addresses that.

ARTBA proposes marrying the first increase in the federal gas and diesel motor fuels tax rate in 22 years with, if necessary, an offsetting annual gas tax rebate for middle and lower income taxpayers for the length of the next surface transportation program reauthorization bill, which is due May 31.

Under the ARTBA plan, a single tax filer with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $100K or less would receive a $90 per year tax rebate—the average annual cost to them of a 15 cent gas tax increase. Joint filers with an AGI of $200K or less would receive a $180 rebate. ARTBA’s analysis shows the rebate would completely offset the gas tax increase for 94 percent of American tax filers.

ARTBA points out that during the Bush Administration, Congress provided tax rebate checks of up to $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers in 2008. A similar tax rebate plan was enacted in 2001.

Ruane says it’s up to the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees to figure out how to pay for the tax rebate. But the association offered one possible mechanism that has been elevated over the past year in the political discussion on highway and transit funding—a one-time federal repatriation transition tax.

The Obama Administration has proposed using a 14 percent transition tax on, what it says, is the up to $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. companies have accumulated overseas to augment the existing HTF revenue stream and fund its $478 billion six-year transportation proposal.

Last year, former House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) proposed raising $126.5 billion over 10 years through a repatriation transition tax for the HTF to fund an eight-year status quo surface transportation investment authorization as part of his comprehensive tax reform plan.

This year, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) has introduced legislation to use deemed repatriation at an 8.75 percent tax rate to generate an additional $120 billon to the HTF for six years.

The ARTBA tax rebate proposal would require $103.3 billion over six years.

“Just using repatriation as a one-time, short-term patch for Highway Trust Fund investments,” Ruane says, “does not address or resolve the trust fund’s underlying revenue stream problem.” After the repatriation “fix” period is over, he says, “the trust fund’s cash flow problem not only returns, but will be worse than it is now, threatening another crash in the highway and transit investment program.”

“Our proposal provides an answer for those who believe Americans are not willing or able to invest another $90 a year to improve their mobility and help keep the cost of just about everything they buy down,” Ruane said, noting traffic congestion increases the cost of transportation for businesses because time is money. “Those costs are being passed on to consumers.”

He noted the proposed additional gas tax cost over a year “is less than we all pay each month for cell phone service.” He added, “I submit the mobility we get from our modest, individual contributions to transportation infrastructure improvements is an outstanding return on investment.”

In modeling its plan, ARTBA used the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2014 forecast for domestic motor fuel consumption and vehicle miles traveled over the next six years, the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) data on the volume of motor fuel taxed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation forecast, the U.S. Census Bureau’s population projection, and U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service tax collection and filing data.

ARTBA says a 15 cent motor fuels tax increase would generate an additional $27 billion per year for HTF investments. The association’s model shows that would end the eight-year HTF revenue crises cycle.

With the additional revenue, ARTBA says, the existing core highway and transit programs would keep pace with forecasted inflation. Given that the FHWA forecasts truck traffic will increase 56 percent between now and 2040, ARTBA recommends using a significant portion of the remaining newly generated user revenue—about $12 billion per year—to fund federal investments in multi-modal capital projects that upgrade the U.S. freight network and help reduce traffic congestion bottlenecks on it.

“Two years ago with MAP-21, Congress did its job and enacted significant highway and transit program reforms that help ensure, going forward, federal investments are strategic, data and performance driven, transparent and utilized with accountability,” Ruane said. “MAP-21 also set the stage for a new strategic initiative to upgrade the U.S. Freight Network with capital projects that have national and regional significance. The only thing lacking was the funding to move forward. This plan provides it.”

The ARTBA executive also pointed out the proposal “gives the Congress additional time to fully explore, and if deemed appropriate and workable, transition to other user-related mechanisms that have been discussed for funding future transportation infrastructure investments—like dedicated energy development fees, per barrel or refinery fees, VMT fees or Interstate tolling.”  “Meanwhile, state programs and the mobility of U.S. businesses and all Americans won’t be held hostage to indecision in Washington,” he added.

“We hope this is helpful to Congress and the Administration as they get serious about a real solution that doesn’t just dig out of the huge hole that has been created, but also starts making the bold capital investments necessary to help U.S. businesses and show Americans real results. If there is a better plan out there that puts the surface transportation program back on solid ground over the next 10 years with a sustainable growth trajectory, then let’s move on it now. The time for cogitating and fretting is over. The clock is ticking.”


 

For a one-page summary and supporting data detailing the ARTBA plan—the assumptions, data and information resources utilized to prepare the computer model and annual revenue projections and program authorizations made possible—visit www.artba.org/GettingBeyondGridlock.

Iowa State Gas Tax Increase Signed into Law This Week; 12 States Considering Similar Plans, According to a New Report from the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center

shutterstock_2571840A 10 cents-per-gallon state gas tax increase signed into law Feb. 25 by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) is the latest in a series of initiatives recently put forward by state governments to boost infrastructure funding, according to a new report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

ARTBA’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center© (TIAC) found there are currently 90 measures related to transportation funding awaiting action in 26 state legislatures. Among the findings:

  • Twelve states: Ga., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., Neb., N.J., S.C., S.D., Texas, Utah, and Wash.—are considering legislation to increase their gas tax or sales tax on gasoline.
  • Four states: Conn., N.H., N.M., and Texas—are considering legislation to protect their transportation funds from diversions.
  • Four states: Ark., Iowa, Mo., and Utah—have proposed legislation to convert their flat-rate excise tax on gasoline to a variable-rate tax.
  • Seven states: Conn., Ga., Minn., N.M., N.Y., Wash., and Wis.—have proposed bonds to pay for transportation projects.
  • Two states with variable-rate gas taxes—Ky. and N.C.—are considering legislation to instate or raise a “floor” on the tax in order to prevent it from collecting below a minimum amount.

State and local spending accounts for just under half of all highway and bridge capital outlays, according to an analysis from ARTBA’s Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black. The federal government is the source, on average, of nearly 52 percent of annual highway and bridge capital improvements made by the states.

“Governors and state legislators recognize the negative impacts of deteriorating road and bridge conditions on the local economy, safety and mobility, and are taking action to fix the problem.” Black said.  “At the federal level, Congress should be taking a similar approach to finding a permanent solution for the Highway Trust Fund before highway and transit program funding expires at the end of May.”

The full “State Transportation Funding Initiatives Report” can be found on the TIAC website: www.transportationinvestment.org.


 

Established in 1902, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA has been the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, federal agencies, the White House, news media and the general public.

Transportation Investment Advocacy Center Resource Guide Looks at Variable-Rate State Gas Taxes

TIAC-Background-14x5(WASHINGTON)— New research conducted by the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (TIAC) has found that 18 states and the District of Columbia are using variable-rate gasoline taxes to generate revenue to help finance highway and bridge improvements.

A variable-rate gasoline tax, or one that adjusts the cents-per-gallon charge at the pump based off of the wholesale price of gasoline, general economic inflation, or a combination of the two, is an alternative to a flat excise tax on gasoline. A flat excise tax charges a fixed cents-per-gallon amount on fuel purchases and does not respond to external economic factors, such as the rising cost of construction due to inflation.

The TIAC, which is operated by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, has published the resource guide to provide transportation advocates with background information about current state laws.

Nine of the states that have instituted a variable component—California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Vermont and West Virginia—have a flat tax and an additional percentage-based tax on the wholesale price of gasoline. Three states— Kentucky, Pennsylvania (starting January 2017) and Virginia—determine their gasoline prices solely by a percentage of the wholesale price of gas.

Two states—Florida and Rhode Island (starting July 2015)—determine gas prices by consulting the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for economic changes, while Maryland adjusts its state gas tax according to CPI and the wholesale price of gasoline.

Several others consider additional components when determining the state gas tax, including recalculating the tax in order to sufficiently make payments on state highway improvement bonds in Nebraska and charging a general state sales tax and use tax in addition to a flat excise tax in Hawaii, Michigan and Illinois.  Some states, like New Jersey, charge a petroleum gross receipts tax, imposed on either the sale of petroleum products or the gross receipts of the petroleum company.

The full report is available on the TIAC website: www.transportationinvestment.org

TIAC is an online educational platform that features detailed case studies of recent transportation funding campaigns—both successful and unsuccessful—mounted in numerous states. It includes television, radio and print ads, polling, an overview of state and local funding and finance mechanisms, and an ongoing blog detailing new developments across the nation.


Established in 1902, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA has been the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, federal agencies, the White House, news media and the general public.

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