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DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx sends transportation bill to Congress, trucking 'concerned,' 'disappointed'

On Feb. 26, Foxx joined Obama to announce a plan to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. According to DOT, it would rely on the President’s proposed “pro-growth business tax reforms.”

The Trucker News Services

4/29/2014

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today unveiled a long-term transportation bill he is sending to Congress for consideration as the House and Senate face looming deadlines to avoid the Highway Trust Fund running out of money late this summer or early fall.

The “Grow America Act” reflects President Barack Obama’s push for a four-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that he said would “create millions of jobs and lay the foundation for long-term competitiveness, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges while providing much-needed certainty for local and state governments and addressing the country’s future needs,” according to a DOT news release about the bill.                                                                                            

“I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing — people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go,” said Foxx. “Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable — and unaffordable. This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve. I have been pleased to see that members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges, and I look forward to continuing our discussion and to supporting and building on the good work that’s already been done.”

On Feb. 26, Foxx joined Obama to announce a plan to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. According to DOT, it would rely on the President’s proposed “pro-growth business tax reforms.”

American Trucking Associations officials expressed their disappointment in the transportation plan put forward by the Obama administration.

“President Obama has talked more about the need to address our critical infrastructure deficit than any president in the past 20 years,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. “While the President’s plan supports a growing program, we cannot help but be very disappointed in much of the plan his administration has put forward.

“Any proposal that moves away from a user fee funded transportation system is not going to be acceptable to the American trucking industry, period. Furthermore, we have real questions about the viability of the administration’s plan to use one-time proceeds from an unspecified and unlikely to pass corporate tax reform idea, along with inefficient highway tolling or private capital financing,” Graves said. “The focus must be on real, long-term funding answers rather than repeatedly looking for the proverbial ‘nickels in the couch cushions.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) expressed “many concerns,” although the organization is still reviewing the bill, said OOIDA Spokesperson Norita Taylor.

Some of those concerns include allowing states to add tolls to interstates and allowing toll revenue to be used to fund things other than highways and bridges.

“Commercial bus travel is increasingly popular and this legislation will build on our unprecedented efforts to make it even safer by expanding oversight to bus ticket brokers and the locations where motorcoaches can be inspected,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "In addition, it will ensure fair pay for long-distance bus and truck drivers who are often paid by the miles they travel, not their total time on-duty, and face economic pressure to jeopardize safety by driving beyond the mandatory limits.”

Congress is probably in no mood to go after corporate tax reform says Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington transportation think tank.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said last week that “What seems to be coming forward as a consensus is a piece of tax reform” rather than shifting funds from the general treasury or raising fuel taxes.

Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House’s tax-writing committee, has also proposed a one-time, $126.5 billion infusion into the trust fund over a period of eight years, but it’s part of much broader rewrite of corporate laws, reports The Associated Press, adding that this would require “heavy lifting from Congress at any time but especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of an election year.”

According to DOT, the Highway fund started this year with some $1.6 million and a $9.7 billion transfer from the General Fund came shortly after. Since then, however, nearly $4 million has already been spent.

In January, the Department of Transportation began posting a ticker online so people can track the remaining funds, available here.

There is a great gap between projected revenue for highways and what will likely be spent, and the gap will continue to grow because the federal gas tax wasn’t indexed for inflation and is still at 1993 inflation levels and fuel efficiency reduces fuel taxes even further.

The Congressional Budget Office has criticized President’s Obama’s $302 billion plan for not going far enough, and says it falls $100 billion short, the Washington Post reported. CBO in a recent report stated that even if the president’s plan is approved, highway funds would still come up short in a few years.

The current transportation bill will expire Oct. 1 and former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said there is “zero” chance a bill would pass until after the election, according to the Post.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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