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AASHTO Journal

Materials Industry Members Prod Congress to Fix Trust Fund as Part of Tax Measure

The National Stone Sand & Gravel Association used a Sept. 24-28 legislative and policy forum in Washington, D.C., to try to build support for an effort to use tax reform discussions to find a long-term revenue stream to close the projected shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.

Ahead of the meeting, Laura O'Neill-Kaumo, NSSGA's senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs, said her group's members would send "a small army of advocates" to Capitol Hill "and urge Congress to use tax reform to fill the $121 billion shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund."

capitol0816.jpgLike many associations that hold policy conferences in the capital, the NSSGA uses part of that time for members to hold meetings with their states' congressional delegations and staffs.

The NSSGA was also among the signers of a Sept. 11 letter to House leaders from both parties by the industry's broader Highway Materials Group coalition.

In it, the industry groups noted that after the current five-year surface transportation law runs out in 2020, the trust fund will face a $212 billion shortfall over the next decade as spending commitments run far ahead of projected receipts from its dedicated excise taxes on motor fuels and trucking equipment.

"As Congress begins their efforts to reform the tax code for the first time in a generation, it is vital that the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund be addressed as part of any comprehensive agreement," they wrote.

They added that "comprehensive tax reform is the logical vehicle to identify and implement a robust and sustainable funding mechanism that addresses the HTF shortfall to achieve the long-term vision for our national transportation system."

Various observers and lawmakers have suggested Congress could use the momentum around tax reform and tax cuts to lock in HTF revenues, such as by increasing or adding new dedicated user fees or by using a tax windfall from repatriated corporate earnings held overseas.

The coalition focused on increasing and indexing the HTF's fuel taxes. "Raising the motor fuels tax rates, last increased in 1993 to 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel, and indexing it to inflation can ensure a robust and reliable funding source moving forward," the letter said.

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