In a recent letter to Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders, and the full Senate and House, SMACNA expressed its enthusiastic support for boosting comprehensive infrastructure investments as a key priority for appropriations and tax reform packages as well as by ensuring the FY 2018 budget resolution includes the necessary provisions to initiate this process.
As the Congress prepares to advance an FY 2018 budget resolution, tax legislation and appropriations bills, our firms want to emphasize the importance of federal infrastructure investments to growing the U.S. economy and creating high skill jobs. The budget and tax process provides several key opportunities to provide vital resources for a critical investment to maintain and upgrade the nation’s transportation infrastructure network.
While the 2015 “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act” surface transportation reauthorization law provides sufficient Highway Trust Fund resources to support the modest surface transportation investment increases it authorized through FY 2020, it relies on $70 billion in transfers to achieve this goal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, there will be a nearly $20 billion average annual shortfall between exiting revenue and the amount needed to prevent cuts in highway and vital public transportation investments once the FAST Act expires.
The Highway Trust Fund’s revenue challenges and the resulting consequences on other parts of the federal budget and U.S. economy warrant a long-term solution to stabilize and grow federal surface transportation investment as part of any tax reform initiative. To facilitate achievement of that goal, SMACNA is urging Congress to include instructions in the FY 2018 budget resolution calling on the relevant tax and authorizing committees to develop legislation to permanently address the trust fund’s structural revenue deficit and to boost a variety of infrastructure programs. Additionally, SMACNA recommended that these instructions be accompanied by a reserve fund that would allow investment levels to increase beyond what the FAST Act calls for if additional trust fund resources are generated by tax reform or some other legislative vehicle.
Failure to address the HTF’s revenue shortfall as part of a comprehensive measure would increase the likelihood of Congress again shifting funds from elsewhere in the budget—at the expense of other economic sectors—to support another in a long string of one-time trust fund infusions. While such actions have temporarily stabilized highway and transit investment, they do not provide states the certainty needed to implement long-term transportation plans. Equally problematic, these short-term legislative “fixes” pass the HTF problem off to another Congress at an increased price tag. The same can be said for delaying a long list of overdue infrastructure investments well known to Congress.
A long-term, growth-supporting revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund would achieve many of the economic and fiscal objectives of both parties. SMACNA is encouraging the Senate and House to make increased spending for a comprehensive infrastructure investment program a key priority for any tax and spending package by ensuring the FY 2018 budget resolution includes the necessary provisions to initiate this process.
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