The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus has endorsed a range of recommendations on how to rebuild and invest in the nation’s aging infrastructure and transportation systems.
The plan, Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure, aims to serve as a starting point for negotiations in Congress for bipartisan infrastructure reform legislation to replace the White House’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and Senate Republican’s $568 billion counteroffer to fund improvements.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said, “We cannot afford four more years of crumbling bridges, roads and tunnels, lead-filled pipes and failed transportation, which is why the Problem Solvers Caucus is putting partisanship aside to find a solution that brings both parties to the table.”
“Our new report provides a bipartisan foundation to actually solve the infrastructure issues facing both my home district in North Jersey and our nation, like finally investing in the Gateway Tunnel. We’re ready to work with our partners in the Senate and with the Administration to get a bipartisan infrastructure package done,” Gottheimer said.
America’s Infrastructure ‘Continues To Fall Behind’
The country’s infrastructure network includes over 4 million miles of roadway, 160,000 public water systems, 5.5 million miles of local electrical distribution lines and over 100 million fixed broadband subscribers, according to the report.
“Unfortunately, due to years of underinvestment and deferred maintenance, America is no longer keeping pace and continues to fall behind other countries,” the report said. “By some estimates, the funding gap may be as high as $2 trillion by 2025 across all sectors of American infrastructure.”
The federal Highway Trust Fund—which pays for the nation’s transportation infrastructure—is funded primarily through the federal user fee on gasoline. However, changing federal fuel economy standards and the growing popularity of electric vehicles have made gas tax revenues less sufficient and the Highway Trust Fund has not been self-sustaining since 2008.
What’s Included In The Plan
The 20-page report proposes a number of ways to ensure “sustainable and long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund,” that consider “changes in technology and mobility use” to equitably distribute “the costs of maintaining and constructing transportation infrastructure.”
One recommendation calls for adjusting the federal fuel tax, which was set at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel in 1993. The plan calls for indexing the gas tax to inflation, highway construction costs, fuel-economy standards or a combination of the three.
Additionally, the caucus proposes alternative sources of revenue, such as an annual registration fee on electric and hybrid electric vehicles, user fees based on the weight of freight carried by trucking companies and a move to a vehicle-miles traveled tax (VMT).
Malinowski: Report Shows ‘Bipartisan Support’
“As Congress debates President Biden’s jobs and infrastructure plan, this report shows there is bipartisan support for ensuring that the United States—and not a strategic competitor like China —is the global leader in developing and deploying clean energy technologies, as well as for investing in large, complex projects of regional and national significance, like Gateway,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) said.
Malinowski added: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to modernize our roads, bridges and airports and to speed our transition to a cleaner, greener transportation future.”
‘A Step In The Right Direction’
Following its release, the report was applauded by business groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
“Finding agreement on funding for infrastructure investment is going to take compromise from both sides and today’s bipartisan proposal is another step in the right direction,” said the chamber’s president, Neil Bradley. “We are especially pleased that the proposal reflects the historic bipartisan consensus to fund our infrastructure largely through user-based fees. Adjusting the fee now and indexing the tax for inflation would raise billions of dollars for investment in our transportation systems”.
Kip Eidenberg, senior vice president of government and industry relations for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, praised the 58 Democratic and Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus “for putting forward a set of bipartisan and commonsense policy solutions that will address today’s challenges and capture future opportunities.”
Biden, GOP Pitch Competing Packages
The report’s release comes amid the Biden administration’s push for a $2.3 trillion package, which invests in everything from traditional infrastructure to affordable housing, electric vehicles and childcare. Biden’s eight-year plan is supported by increasing the corporate tax rate to 25% and other changes to the tax code.
An $568 billion five-year alternative plan unveiled last month by Republican Senators sticks largely to physical infrastructure improvements. The GOP has opposed increasing the corporate tax rate—which decreased from 35% to 21% following passage of the 2017 tax law—and seek to preserve those cuts.
While vague on payment details, the plan aims to ensure “all users of certain types of infrastructure” are “contributing to the generation of revenue” and calls for the utilization of unspent federal dollars.