House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on July 23 unveiled his framework for the future of infrastructure policy, which included encouraging states to lease their infrastructure assets to the private sector as well as temporarily boosting the motor fuels taxes until they can be replaced with per-mile fees.
Notably, unlike the Trump Administration proposal, the draft does not include provisions that would allow for tolling and does not specifically call for commercial rest areas.
The "discussion draft" is very unlikely to become law but will add to the discussion regarding potential infrastructure legislation in 2019.
Specifically, the discussion draft would phase in an increase in the motor fuels taxes of 15 cents per gallon for gasoline and 20 cents for diesel and index them to inflation. After 2028, the motor fuels taxes would cease to exist, however. To replace the gas tax, the draft calls for a voluntary pilot program to test the feasibility of a nationwide per-mile user fee.
In a vision statement accompanying the discussion draft, Rep. Shuster said that by ensuring short-term solvency, "we can thoughtfully look at the future needs of the Highway Trust Fund and produce a solution that fully supports appropriate investment in our Nation's vital transportation infrastructure."
The draft also sets new taxes on electric vehicles, which don't currently pay into the system.
Rep. Shuster proposed establishing a 15-person Highway Trust Fund Commission to develop a legislative proposal, but specified that the commission's recommendation could not include levying a tax on fuels. The proposal would then go to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
The discussion draft embraced asset recycling, which funds new infrastructure and revitalizes existing infrastructure through the sale or lease of public assets. The proposal directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to carry out a pilot program to complete three to five building projects as public private partnerships to leverage private-sector dollars.
Although the draft does not specifically call for commercial rest areas, NATSO is concerned that asset recycling could easily lead to tolling and commercial rest areas.
NATSO will continue to evaluate the proposal and provide a more detailed analysis in the coming days.
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