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Tolling Points

Leading Republican Pitches Vehicle Miles Tax to Fund Highway Infrastructure

Bill Cramer

The Republican Ranking Member on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is looking to vehicle miles tax/traveled to raise $1 trillion for highway, bridge, and other infrastructure repairs.

Sam Graves (R-MO) “floated the vehicle mileage tax, despite the inevitable blowback he will receive from the party’s anti-tax base,” the Washington Times reported last week. “It is a bold opening bid compared to the Democrats’ top tax writer, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who said they want to wait for President Trump to make the first move on paying for infrastructure.”

“The president doesn’t pass legislation,” he told the Times. “I think Congress needs to step up and let’s do our job.”

Graves said the tax could apply immediately to commercial vehicles that already track their mileage.

How to Get Infrastructure Done

The recent moves from both parties in Congress suggest the coming debate on infrastructure will center on how to clear the country’s mounting highway funding and financing backlog, not whether the work can be postponed any longer. Two weeks ago, House Democrats released a five-year, $760-billion infrastructure package that included $329 billion for roads and bridges and was seen to bring environment and climate to center stage.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) emphasized the elements of the plan that “would aim to address a massive [infrastructure] maintenance backlog, design safer streets, and put the United States on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector,” Land Line reported at the time.

“Our country has changed dramatically since the 1950s, yet people and goods are now literally stuck trying to move on transportation networks first developed nearly 70 years ago,” DeFazio said in a release. “It’s past time for transformational investments to make our infrastructure smarter, safer, and resilient to climate change, or else we will keep throwing money at an antiquated system that is only holding us and our economy back.”

The Democrats’ plan calls for bringing existing infrastructure into a state of good repair, set a path toward zero-carbon pollution in transportation, promote environmental justice, and deliver a system that is green, affordable, reliable, and efficient while providing access to jobs.

U.S. House Ways and Means Chair, Richard Neal said, “I think it's really important that we not volunteer a revenue stream until the Administration reaches an agreement with us,” he said late last month. “I think what we're looking for here is an agreement that we can then take to the public between the two sides about how best to pay for it, so there's not one-upmanship.”

The urgency of the discussion came through loud and clear in January 29 testimony by IBTTA Second Vice President Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

“There is no more important funding decision than that which involves this nation’s transportation network,” she told the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. “When the transportation system fails, our economy is in jeopardy. When the transportation system fails, families are disconnected and most importantly, when our transportation system fails, our national defense is compromised.”

Time to get infrastructure funding done! Get your 2020 roadmap at the IBTTA/TRB/AASHTO International Transportation Finance Summit, May 7-9 in Denver.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 11:15


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