WASHINGTON — The Problem Solvers Caucus on January 10 released a new report with bipartisan policy recommendations to build a 21st century infrastructure network for America. The 48-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, led by co-chairs Tom Reed, R-N.Y. and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., launched an Infrastructure Working Group to find consensus on a bipartisan set of policies to serve as the bedrock for a plan that addresses the dire need to rebuild and responsibly invest in infrastructure across the United States.
The Infrastructure Working Group, co-chaired by Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., met with over 100 outside stakeholder organizations, the administration and leaders of Congress to develop bipartisan concepts to move an infrastructure plan forward.
These bipartisan policy options will be the foundation for a comprehensive plan to improve the nation’s highways, roads and bridges, transit and railways, ports and airports, water and sewer systems, energy systems and the power grid, and broadband and communications networks, caucus leaders said.
“It’s always better for the country when we act together. The bipartisan policy solutions we’ve delivered provide Congress the building blocks necessary to craft a comprehensive infrastructure plan that both parties can agree to,” Reed said. “We’ve paved a bipartisan path to get to ‘yes’ and look forward to working with key leaders in Congress to find the right mix of policies to create legislation that can, and should, be enacted into law as soon as possible.”
The causes was formed in early 2017. It includes approximately 40 members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans who are committed to forging bipartisan cooperation on key issues.
“Congress must reconsider how it funds, finances and treats infrastructure investments,” the report begins. “We must fulfill our duty to provide stable, long-term funding for infrastructure that supports America’s national security and our nearly $20 trillion economy, while also encouraging innovative financing and provide increased accountability to taxpayers so they know that every single dollar is invested wisely. Congress must also cut red tape and stop gridlock when it prevents projects from moving forward in as expedient a manner as possible, while ensuring environmental and safety protections.”
The report covers specific aspects of the nation’s infrastructure, including surface transportation, ports and inland waterways, water and wastewater infrastructure, energy, broadband and communications networks and aviation.
As for surface transportation, the caucus noted that historically, the federal government has paid its share through the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded primarily through the federal user fee on gasoline.
However, the caucus noted that in 2008, spending exceeded declining revenue in the fund for the first time since its inception in 1956.
There were three primary reasons, the report said.
To ensure sustainable and long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund, the government should modernize the current federal gasoline user fee and provide proper indexing tools so that the American people do not face the same funding shortfalls over the next 25 years. This could be done in a number of ways, including but not limited to an immediate adjustment in calendar years after 2018 to the rates of the excise taxes on petroleum and petroleum products, diesel fuel, alcohol-based fuel, and fuels used in certain buses, by indexing them to any one (or some combination) of the following: inflation or the consumer price index, national highway construction cost index, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and lastly, an immediate or phased-in modernization of the federal gasoline user fee that fully and sustainably funds the Highway Trust Fund and provides accountability to taxpayers by stopping future general fund transfers.
The report also calls for a modest annual registration fee on fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles, which currently either contribute nothing or contribute significantly less to the Highway Trust Fund than gasoline-powered vehicles.