LICA Letter to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
regarding the Clean Water Act.
The EPA Response to the above letter.
LICA represented at the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In on June 10th and 11th.
John Peterson, LICA Director of Government Relations. 12 JUN 2014/jwp
On June 10th and 11th, LICA Past President and current Chairman of LICA Legislative Committee, Bruce Barnhart and John Peterson, Director of Government Relations, represented LICA at a Washington, DC Fly-In hosted by the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC). It was designed to ask Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF was established in 1956. Its primary source of revenue is the federal motor fuels excise tax, which was last increased in 1993. The Highway Account of the HTF is projected encounter a revenue shortfall in August, requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to slow reimbursements to states for already approved projects. The CBO estimates the HTF will be unable to support any new spending in 2015. The TCC argues for a six-year bill that will provide some long-term stability and allow states to preserve existing road and bridge conditions and prevent traffic from getting worse. Short-term stop-gap measures really do not help, but that could be what happens again. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card rates our nation’s highways at D+.
The TCC, which was initiated in July 1996, is a partnership of 31 national associations and construction unions with a direct interest in federal transportation programs. They focus on the federal budget and surface transportation reauthorization debates. Among those 31 organizations is the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), who LICA works with on ConExpo. The TCC’s coordinated advocacy has included direct lobbying, grassroots activism, research, public education, paid advertisements, and media relations. That advocacy is aimed at increasing federal investment to maintain and improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The TCC is co-chaired by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
The Fly-In kicked off with a briefing on Tuesday. Speakers were Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA, 9th), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd), Member of the House Ways and Means Committee; Sen David Vitter (R-LA), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee; Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation; and David Wasserman, a political analyst with the Cook Political Report. That evening there was a reception on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday there was an early breakfast, a Rally for Roads on the mall west of the Capitol, and then Capitol Hill visits where the request to fix the HTF was made to Members. Barnhart left packets with Iowa Members, and Peterson with those from Virginia.
Our nation’s transportation network, particularly its highways, is the system that supports virtually all levels of economic activity. Every American manufacturing plant, retail store, service person, farmer and rancher, our national defense, and millions of other jobs and industries depend on our highways to deliver products to market, and help us move from place to place. Every $1 in federal highway (and mass transit – which clouds the picture a bit) investment increases the nation’s GDP between $1.80 – $2.00. Spending on these programs generates $31 billion in federal personal tax receipts per year, and $6 billion in federal corporate tax receipts per year on average. We have LICA Contractors whose principal business is highway construction, and the HTF is very important to them.
While LICA solidly supports fixing the HTF with a long-term bill for at least 6 years, in some ways the problem is a classic Washington crisis whereby Congress sets up a “trust fund,” and then depletes it by spending the money on projects that have nothing to do with highways. The funds have been spent for bike paths, hiking trails, sidewalks, landscaping, high-speed rail, trolleys, and other mass transit projects. Then when there is no money, they demand taxes be raised. And many try to sell this need for increased taxes by claiming our cars and trucks have been made magically more fuel-efficient by government mandate, and we are paying less in gasoline taxes. That is patently false. In 2009 the gross receipts for the gasoline tax were $24.6 billion. They have gone up every year, and in the most recent accounting were $25.5 billion, and when you include the separate taxes on diesel fuel for the big rigs brings the total to $41.3 billion. More people are driving more.
The HTF was created as a user-pay, user-benefits system, in which those who paid the taxes would see those dollars returned through road and bridge construction, repair and maintenance. Many believe it has become a slush fund to pay for wants and not needs, and want the money spent on highways and not something else.
In spite of the public policy concerns LICA has with the way the HTF funds have been spent, LICA is assisting the TCC with its work lobbying for a long-term highway bill. We support maintaining all our nation’s infrastructure, but not just because it could benefit our member contractors, but because our entire society and economy depend on it. The highway financial policy issues we have will be taken up in other ways.