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Association Leaders Address SOTU Speech

In President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28, he linked tax reform and infrastructure investment, a move welcomed by national stakeholders.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad,” Obama said. “Let's flip that equation. Let's work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home. Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today's global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.

“We'll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer,” he continued. “But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”

National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association President and CEO Michael Johnson welcomed the call for infrastructure investment.

“The president once again mentioned the need to rebuild America’s surface transportation infrastructure in his State of the Union address,” he said. “I hope the sixth time is the charm because it will take presidential leadership to find a long-term solution to the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

“The president’s call for corporate tax reform is a welcome development for members of the aggregates industry,” Johnson continued. “By both lowering the rates and eliminating complexities within the code, everyone from mom and pop companies running a single sand and gravel operation all the way up to vertically integrated corporations employing thousands of men and women across America will see the benefits. Decreased tax compliance costs coupled with increased after tax earnings translate into stronger companies capable of providing good paying jobs for American workers.

“Furthermore, the president’s proposal to invest at least a portion of the revenue generated through corporate tax reform in the nation’s roads, bridges and ports is a step in the right direction and one that Republicans and Democrats can and should support, he concluded. “We commend the president for also pledging to further reduce government bureaucracy and streamline the project delivery process to build upon the progress being made under MAP-21. But applause lines do not build roads and, as country music artist Toby Keith sang, we need ‘a little less talk and a lot more action.’  The time is now to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

American Road & Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Pete Ruane agreed with Johnson.

“Transportation investment has been emerging in recent days as one of the areas where Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill can find common ground,” he said. “It is commendable that President Obama once again used his State of the Union address to talk about the need to repair the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Now we would like to see specific plans about how Congress and President plan to tackle the underlying problem: the need for new, long-term revenues.

“Time is of the essence,” he warned. “The federal Highway Trust Fund ¬– the source of 52 percent of all state highway and bridge capital investments – will be unable to support any new improvements in fiscal year 2015, unless the President and Congress act this fall. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx put it best January 15 when he said ‘the Highway Trust Fund will start bouncing checks as soon as August.’ Future U.S. economic competitiveness, mobility and hundreds of thousands of American jobs are at stake. Our message to Congress and the Administration is simple: Fix the Highway Trust Fund as soon as possible.”

Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association concurred with his fellow association heads.

“We applaud President Obama for shining a bright light on the need ‘to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure,” Jones said. “We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. We also salute the Congress for making plans to move forward with timely reauthorization of MAP-21.

“The transportation funding needs of states are great,” he said. “The resources of the federal government are limited. Therefore, we ask Congress and the President to give states maximum flexibility to meet their individual transportation funding needs, including the use of tolling on the existing Interstate highway system.