The abrupt ending May 22 to an infrastructure meeting between the White House and Congressional Democrats means there probably won't be any new revenues for the surface transportation reauthorization that Congress must pass by next fall, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told Politico.
"There probably will be no new revenue, which means we're looking at a $4 billion reduction in spending unless we find some way to stopgap and fill that, and we're brainstorming ideas on how to do that," Rep. DeFazio said.
The meeting on May 22 between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was supposed to be the second official meeting to discuss a $2 trillion infrastructure bill. The President and lawmakers were expected to discuss how to pay for such a large increase in infrastructure investment. That meeting ended within minutes, however.
Rep. DeFazio, who is Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that he had hoped the discussions would lead to a commitment on a significant infrastructure package, which would not have included major policy changes. Now, he said, lawmakers will need to work on the policy in hopes that they can work out the funding. Funding for infrastructure falls under the jurisdiction of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Following the meeting’s end, Rep. DeFazio said that he would focus on reauthorization of surface transportation and continue to work with Republicans to move individual pieces of legislation. Senate Republican leaders have said previously that they prefer to prioritize the surface transportation reauthorization rather than focus on a broad infrastructure bill.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said he did not think that the May 22 breakdown in conversation would affect work on a reauthorization.
The current surface transportation law expires Oct. 1, 2020. Senate leaders have said that they aim to mark up their version of the reauthorization by August recess. The House timetable is less clear.
NATSO has long held that increasing long-term, sustainable infrastructure funding is critical to the nation's economy. Specifically, NATSO thinks that increasing the motor fuels tax represents the most efficient means of increasing critical infrastructure revenues.
Sixty-five truckstops and travel center owners and operators from across the United States traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier in May to press lawmakers for increased infrastructure funding.
The Highway Trust Fund currently is funded by an 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon tax on diesel. The federal fuel tax was last increased in 1993. Over the past 25 years, construction and maintenance costs have increased and the fuel tax has remained stagnant, eroding the buying power of the tax by 40 percent.
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