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Infrastructure Bill: How Will We Pay for It?

The House Ways and Means Committee met to discuss how to pay for a proposed $760 billion federal infrastructure bill.

The hearing – with an agenda of five witnesses, including representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency and the New Jersey Department of Transportation – took a high-level look at funding alternatives.

Among the options put forth prior to the meeting in a paper from the Joint Committee on Taxation are a mileage-based tax system, an infrastructure bank, tolling, public-private partnerships – and what many think is the easiest fix, raising the gas tax.

The ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), has endorsed a mechanism that would allow highway users to pay based on vehicle miles traveled.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last July approved a five-year, $287 billion surface transportation bill (S 2302).

“We are encouraged by the infrastructure plans released by Democratic and Republican leaders,” said Dennis Slater, president of AEM. “Both plans lay out promising ideas to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, and highways are aging. Rural communities across the country need greater access to broadband. Our airports and ports of entry must be modernized to be more efficient and effective. And most critically, the current funding mechanism for our roads and highways is outdated and doesn’t reflect over two decades of inflation.”

“Congressional leadership must seize this window of opportunity to reclaim our nation’s infrastructure advantage. We are optimistic they will be able to negotiate across the aisle on sound legislation that includes a sustainable funding mechanism for U.S. roads and highways. We have long said that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue, and a finalized infrastructure plan should be, too.” 

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Dave Bauer said, “The separate release of principles from members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee is the latest in a long list of reminders that improving America’s transportation infrastructure network remains an area for common ground.

“The T&I Committee has a history of bipartisanship and the proposals from Democrats and Republicans provide an important foundation for the chamber to deliver on the infrastructure vision both parties have articulated since the 2016 elections.

“All policymakers and stakeholders should be clear-eyed there will be no infrastructure initiative without equivalent passion and commitment devoted to paying for these needed investments.

“We urge infrastructure supporters and all relevant committees to work with the Ways & Means Committee to develop and support the robust revenue plan necessary to turn years of infrastructure visions into reality.”