Washington Outlook: All Eyes on Infrastructure

By Edward R. Hamberger.

Prospects for a large-scale infrastructure and surface transportation bill in Washington is an increasingly salient topic.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced he will retire at the end of 2018 – in part to focus fully on bipartisan infrastructure legislation – while the President reportedly favors action on this front in the first part of the year.

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Making the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent. The problems with the HTF, the primary means to directly fund surface transportation projects, are well documented. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in 2016, “Federal spending on highways does not correspond very well with how the roads are used.”

Due to increasingly fuel efficient cars that erode the effectiveness of the gas tax, as well as heavy trucks failing to pay for their full infrastructure impact, lawmakers have been forced to transfer $143 billion in general taxpayer funds to the HTF. “Using unrelated government revenue to fill deficits in the trust fund subverts fiscal discipline and undercuts the whole point of having a dedicated funding source,” the Concord Coalition rightly says.