Direct Federal Spending High on Industry’s Infrastructure List

Industry officials, lawmakers also agree on need for Highway Trust Fund fix.

October 14, 2017
Tom Ichniowski

As the construction and transportation industries continue to wait for more specifics from the White House about President Trump’s still-unreleased infrastructure investment plan, some top officials are making clear that they want direct federal funds to be a keystone of the proposal, though acknowledging that public-private partnerships can be helpful in some cases.

Lawmakers and witnesses at a House highways and transit subcommittee hearing on Oct. 11 also said they want the plan to include a remedy for the Highway Trust Fund, which will face another shortfall in 2020 unless it gets a revenue infusion.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the panel has been working closely with administration officials on “principles” for the infrastructure plan “And we hope to see that soon coming out of the White House,” Shuster added..

The wait for the plan has been long. There has been little action in the House, too, said Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), the transportation committee’s top Democrat.

He noted that it has been more than nine months since the committee held its first 2017 infrastructure hearing, on Feb. 1 and House lawmakers have only rolled out a few legislative proposals.

DeFazio said that “all we’re doing around here is just talking, while the country crumbles.” He added, “I mean, seriously, let’s get to work.”

DeFazio also called for a strong federal role. He observed that more than 20 states in recent years “have stepped up” by raising revenue, mainly through increases in their own gasoline taxes. But DeFazio said those additional dollars are not enough. “They need a federal partner,” he said.

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