With the Highway Trust Fund scheduled to run out in less than two months, tempers flared over inaction on the issue. President Obama, giving a speech in Virginia, threatened to act independently, while literally every association with skin in the game signed a letter to Congress.
Obama wants to fix the Highway Trust Fund by eliminating corporate tax breaks. House Republicans, however, have balked at his plan. “House Republicans have refused to act on this idea,” said Obama. “I haven’t heard a good reason why they haven’t acted, it’s not like they’ve been busy with other stuff.
“No, seriously. They’re not doing anything. Why don’t they do this?” Obama added, before arguing that the U.S. spends a smaller portion of its economy on infrastructure than “just about every other advanced country.”
House Republicans, meanwhile, want to keep the highway fund rolling by ending Saturday U.S. Postal Service deliveries or enacting more stringent state online sales taxes. But in Tuesday’s speech, Obama was clearly frustrated by Congress’ inaction and with the increasing partisanship of the issue. House Republicans last month said they plan to sue Obama for what they argue has been the president’s abuse of executive actions, which allow the executive branch to take certain actions without approval from the legislature.
“It’s not crazy; it’s not socialism. It’s not the imperial presidency. No laws are broken, it’s just building roads and bridges like we’ve been doing,” the president said, adding that if House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) and his party won’t cooperate, he will continue to act independently.
“Middle class families can’t wait for a Republican Congress to do stuff,” Obama said. “So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”
The complete text of the letter associations sent to Congress follows:
July 14, 2014
To Members of the U.S. Congress:
The undersigned organizations representing every sector of the economy urge the House of Representatives and Senate to pass bipartisan legislation that will stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and prevent a shutdown of federal highway and public transportation investments across the country.
Our transportation infrastructure network is the foundation on which the nation’s economy functions. American manufacturers, industries and businesses depend on this complex system to move people, products and services every day of the year.
As the World Economic Forum (WEF) noted in its 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report, infrastructure connects regions, integrates markets and provides access to markets and services. While this latest report places the U.S. economy fifth in its “Global Competitiveness Index,” America’s infrastructure network now ranks 15th globally.
Shortchanging the Highway Trust Fund is not the path to future economic growth, jobs and increased competitiveness. The possibility of a deficient Highway Trust Fund that shutters 100,000 construction projects that support 700,000 jobs and puts all new highway, bridge and public transportation investments on hold will further harm an already fragile economy.
The U.S. economy requires a surface transportation infrastructure network that can keep pace with growing demands. A long-term federal commitment to prioritize and invest in our aging infrastructure and safety needs is essential to achieve this goal. Keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent is the first step.
We urge Congress to avoid the immediate transportation cliff and improve the long-term fiscal condition of the Highway Trust Fund during 2014.
National Association of Manufacturers
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
American Road & Transportation Builders Association
Associated General Contractors of America
National Retail Federation
American Trucking Association
U.S. Travel Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
International Union of Operating Engineers
American Society of Civil Engineers
Laborers International Union of North America
National Association of Development Organizations
NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association
American Public Transportation Association
Airports Council International–North America
Transportation for America
Building America's Future
Smart Growth America
Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Governors Highway Safety Association
American Highway Users Alliance
American Public Works Association
American Council of Engineering Companies
National Stone Sand and Gravel Association
Transportation Intermediaries Association
The American Society of Landscape Architects
American Iron and Steel Institute
National Utility Contractors Association
American Concrete Pipe Association
American Concrete Pavement Association
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
National Asphalt Pavement Association
Truckload Carriers Association
American Association of Airport Executives
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association
Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)
Safe Routes to School National Partnership
League of American Bicyclists
Alliance for Biking & Walking
Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals
National Tank Truck Carriers
American Moving & Storage Association
NATSO, representing America’s Truckstops and Travel Plazas
National Recreation and Park Association
Metropolitan Planning Council (Chicago, IL)
American Traffic Safety Services Association
SMART – Transportation Division
Safe Kids Worldwide
PeopleForBikes – Business Network
International Warehouse Logistics Association
The National Industrial Transportation League
The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
Portland Cement Association
Associated Equipment Distributors
National Electrical Contractors Association
National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)