As a new presidential administration and Congress take control in Washington, D.C., lawmakers are expected to take action on several key issues relevant to the travel plaza industry, including highway funding.
Speaking at The NATSO Show 2017, David Fialkov, NATSO’s vice president of government affairs, told attendees that he expects an increased interest in tolling and rest area commercialization as lawmakers look to boost infrastructure funding levels.
President Donald Trump advocates a $1 trillion infrastructure investment over the course of a decade. Details have yet to emerge on how such a package will be paid for; however, President Trump has expressed support for increased private investment and tax breaks, which could lead to revenue schemes that NATSO opposes, such as rest area commercialization and tolling. NATSO has long supported an increase in the motor fuels tax as the most efficient means of generating revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.
“NATSO has advocated increasing fuel taxes and indexing them to inflation not just because it is the best option for funding infrastructure, but also because without good funding options, policymakers tend to gravitate toward bad funding options,” Fialkov said, adding that bad funding options can push thriving, successful enterprises out of business.
Fialkov called on NATSO Show attendees to continue supporting the ban on rest area commercialization and the prohibition on tolling existing interstates. “Adding tolls to existing interstates is an inefficient means of collecting revenue. It also results in traffic diversion, where vehicles – especially trucking fleets – will avoid toll roads and instead travel on secondary roads that are not equipped to handle Interstate-level traffic volume,” he said.
If done properly, Fialkov said a comprehensive infrastructure package could put people back to work, improve the economy and bring the country’s aging infrastructure into the 21st Century. “Done poorly, it could help Wall Street investors at the expense of many of the entrepreneurs and communities that helped propel Donald Trump into office,” he said.
During his keynote address, Fialkov said tax and healthcare reform are top priorities for the GOP, but what the reform will look like is still unknown. Fialkov also discussed labor laws as well as increased reports of corrosion in ULSD underground storage tanks. “This is a supply-chain problem, not a retailer problem,” he said. “Current ASTM fuel standards do not appear to protect all problems related to fuel quality.”
2017 marks a critical year for NATSO’s issues. Fialkov encouraged NATSO members to advocate for the industry during NATSO’s Day on the Hill May 15-17 in Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO
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