NASBP On Capitol Hill

Congress Begins to Introduce Infrastructure Legislation, BUT How Does Congress Plan to Fund It?

smltulipCapitol.jpgRebuilding the nation’s infrastructure has garnered a great deal of interest, enthusiasm, and perhaps even bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for an infrastructure spending bill. Recently, two Committees in Congress that primarily have jurisdiction over our nation’s infrastructure, the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works (EPW) and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I) conducted hearings to examine the needs to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways. While members of these committees on both sides of the aisle agreed that something needs to be done to fix the nation’s crumpling infrastructure, the question remains: what does Congress do in order to pay for such a large, expensive spending package?

Possible Revenue Sources

Even Senator Deb Fisher (R-NE) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th), who could not be further apart ideologically, both believe that revitalizing the nation’s infrastructure can be accomplished by increasing revenue streams, which includes shoring up revenues for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is solvent through 2020. Specifically, the HTF provides the financing structure for federal investment in transportation projects. It consists of two accounts: the highway account, which supports projects for the interstate system and other roads, and the transit account, which supports light rail and other mass transit projects across the country.

On February 1, Senator Fisher, who serves on EPW and Chairs the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, introduced S.271, the “Build USA Infrastructure Act,” to require that for the five-year period starting October 1, 2020, the first $21.4 billion of revenues collected each fiscal year by U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be deposited into the HTF to cover a projected shortfall between the HTF's dedicated tax receipts and projected spending. Senator Fisher’s legislation, S. 271, is modeled after legislation she developed as a state senator in Nebraska, which resulted in the successful completion of a much needed bridge and created a major arterial street in South Sioux City.

Meanwhile Representative DeFazio, who is ranking member on the House T&I Committee, proposed at a T&I hearing that Congress should index federal taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to construction-cost inflation and use that new revenue to back 30-year infrastructure bonds, as part of a three-part plan to increase investment in highway and transit projects, harbors, and airports. DeFazio believes that indexing the existing federal motor fuels tax would allow issuance over 30 years of $500 billion in bonds for highway, bridge, and transit improvements.

Furthermore, companion bills were introduced in the House and Senate to allow state and local governments to issue up to $5 billion of private activity bonds (PABs) to finance the repair or construction of public buildings under public-private partnership (P3) arrangements. The Public Buildings Renewal Act, H.R. 960, was introduced on February 7, by Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA 3rd), and includes eight cosponsors. Meanwhile, on February 8, Senators Heller (R-NV) and Nelson (D-FL) introduced a senate companion bill. More infrastructure spending legislation is expected to be introduced soon, including the President’s infrastructure program, which may expand upon the use of PABs. NASBP will keep the membership apprised of NASBP involvement moving forward in Pipeline and other NASBP publications.

Meetings with the Freshmen

To begin a working relationship and to educate on the importance of bonding, NASBP has met the following freshman members who were assigned to serve on transportation and spending committees: Representatives Drew Ferguson (R-GA 3rd), Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN 9th), Francis Rooney (R-FL 19th), and John Faso (R-NY 19th). NASBP continues to meet with veteran legislators, such as House Small Business Committee Chairman, Steve Chabot (R-OH 1st); Representative Sam Graves (R-MO 6th), who chairs the House T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit; and Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN 4th), as well as committee staff from the House Small Business and T&I Committees. There are nine new Republicans serving on the House T&I Committee. They are: Randy Weber (R-TX 14th), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA 1st), Bruce Westerman (R-AR 4th), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA 16th), Paul Mitchell (R-MI 10th), John Faso (R-NY 19th), Drew Ferguson (R-GA 3rd), Brian Mast (R-FL 18th) and Jason Lewis (R-MN 2nd).

NASBP Members, Affiliates, and Associates can help NASBP establish a relationship with these new members of Congress. Anyone who has a professional and/or personal relationship with these new members of the T&I Committee or other members of Congress are encouraged to contact Larry LeClair, Director of Government Relations at NASBP will contact that Member of Congress and make an appointment to meet with someone in that office.