NAFA Urges Long-Term Fix to Highway Trust Fund Issue

NAFA Mem­bers’ fleets are major users of the Amer­i­can high­way sys­tem. They face con­ges­tion, poor road con­di­tions, closed bridges, and oth­er obsta­cles that have a direct impact on their effi­cien­cy and their employ­ers’ bot­tom lines.

Con­gress final­ly passed a High­way Bill, just before the sum­mer recess and just in time to keep the High­way Trust Fund from going bank­rupt. How­ev­er, the squab­bling  House and Sen­ate agreed only to kick the can down the road by means of bud­getary trick­ery. In the end, the Sen­ate accept­ed a short-term fix from the House that will keep the High­way Trust Fund sol­vent only until next spring.

A more sen­si­ble way would have been to con­tin­ue the fuel tax­es that have been a main­stay of fed­er­al high­way sup­port since the days of Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er. To that end, Sen Chris Mur­phy (D-Conn) and Sen. Bob Cork­er (R-Tenn), sug­gest­ed a 12-cent gas tax increase spread over two years. The cur­rent 18.4-cent per gal­lon tax has not been raised since 1993. Thanks to bet­ter fuel econ­o­my, and an increase in hybrids and bat­tery pow­ered vehi­cles, gas-tax receipts to both states and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, which appor­tions its col­lec­tions among the states, have dropped with the like­li­hood that they will con­tin­ue to drop, even if miles dri­ven increas­es.

Thus, in addi­tion to increased tax­es, oth­er sources of high­way funds must be sought. These will include more toll roads, and per­haps increased use tax­es. That par­tic­u­lar tax may not sit well with many fleets, but a strong inter­state high­way sys­tem and a sound trans­porta­tion sys­tem are fun­da­men­tal to our nation’s com­pet­i­tive­ness. NAFA mem­bers’ fleets are major users of the Amer­i­can high­way sys­tem. They face con­ges­tion, poor road con­di­tions, closed bridges, and oth­er obsta­cles that have a direct impact on their effi­cien­cy and their employ­ers’ bot­tom lines.

As NAFA chief exec­u­tive offi­cer Phil Rus­so said, “Con­gress must devel­op a long-term solu­tion to this sig­nif­i­cant issue that has been plagu­ing the Unit­ed States for more than a decade. We applaud Con­gress for tak­ing action to pro­vide a short-term patch, but they have once again kicked the can down the road and have not resolved the root issue.”

That root issue, he not­ed, is that the High­way Trust Fund has no sus­tain­able means of gen­er­at­ing suf­fi­cient rev­enue to pay for the hun­dreds of projects for which it is respon­si­ble, which total bil­lions of dol­lars. Those projects include high­way improve­ments, bridges, and oth­er infra­struc­ture projects. With a short-term fix in place, efforts must now turn to devel­op­ing a long-term strat­e­gy for fund­ing the HTF.

NAFA is by no means alone in this posi­tion. Asso­ci­a­tions rep­re­sent­ing state and local gov­ern­ment offi­cials, the Nation­al League of Cities, the U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors, the Nation­al Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Truck­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Road and Trans­porta­tion Builders Asso­ci­a­tion, and even AAA, all called upon Con­gress for a long-term solu­tion. A longer-term bill will pro­vide cer­tain­ty for states and local­i­ties to plan their projects with­out the fear that funds may dry up before com­ple­tion.

NAFA has voiced sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that would increase the gaso­line and diesel excise tax, pro­vid­ed that it is indexed to infla­tion, and with the con­di­tion that such an increase be bal­anced by the inclu­sion of incen­tives to off­set the tax increase. An increase in the excise tax is the sim­plest, most straight-for­ward, and most effec­tive way to gen­er­ate enough rev­enue to fund the country’s high­way sys­tem into the future.

Sev­er­al leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als have been intro­duced to increase the tax on fuels. NAFA has voiced sup­port, in prin­ci­ple, for the pro­pos­al by Sen­a­tors Cork­er and Mur­phy that would increase the fed­er­al gaso­line and diesel tax­es by six cents in each of the next two years for a total of 12 cents; index the gas tax to infla­tion, using the Con­sumer Price Index (CPI); and off­set the rev­enue raised from increas­ing the gas tax by pro­vid­ing net tax relief for fam­i­lies and busi­ness­es.

Rus­so promis­es that NAFA will mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion, and con­tin­ue to make the posi­tion of fleet pro­fes­sion­als known to leg­is­la­tors until a sat­is­fac­to­ry con­clu­sion has been reached.

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