Contours of Infrastructure Debate Take Shape

Despite more headline-grabbing news regarding President Trump's personal attorney and U.S. relations with North Korea, there has been subtle yet steady progress surrounding infrastructure legislation in recent days.

The House Ways and Means Committee announced it will hold a hearing on March 6 examining the nation's infrastructure needs. Any successful infrastructure package will necessarily entail the Ways and Means Committee -- which has jurisdiction over tax policy (including fuels excise taxes) -- working closely with the Transportation Committee (which has jurisdiction over transportation policies such as tolling and rest area commercialization). 

For his part, Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)announced that he is planning on bringing back "earmarks," or provisions in laws that are designated for a specific purpose.  Earmarks were discontinued approximately ten years ago as wasteful, "pork barrel" spending, but have regained favor in recent years as opportunities to encourage otherwise reluctant lawmakers to support increasing federal investment in infrastructure. In arguing that bringing back earmarks will help build support for a gas tax increase that he believes is necessary for a surface infrastructure bill, DeFazio rhetorically asked, "Why shouldn't elected representatives, through a transparent process, be able to spend a small amount of money, bring it home, and show people what they're going to get for a small increase in their gas tax?"
 
Across the Capitol, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Feb. 27 that the surface transportation bill his committee will continue to distribute money through funding formulas. This is one of three priorities Sen. Barrasso has established for the legislation, along with addressing the needs of both rural and urban America and streamlining permitting.

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