Paving the Way for Good Roads

PollQuestion

We’ve got a new poll question (top right) asking about a strategy to pay for long-term infrastructure funding. The current House Republican plan calls for a modest gasoline tax increase and higher cigarette taxes (that would go toward Medicaid spending, with sales tax funds currently used in that area shifting to transportation).

More details on the legislation: HB 1001

The most recent poll asked for your top legislative priority. Civil rights expansion (36%) topped the list, followed by increased transportation funding (28%) and education testing reform (16%).

Sen. Donnelly: “Roads Aren’t Republican or Democrat”

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In a visit with the Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Policy Committee today, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) said he believes a new long-term highway infrastructure bill should be enacted yet this year.

Citing “desperate, crying” infrastructure needs, the senator said two imperatives are to “make sure we (Indiana) get our share” and “make sure we get it funded. We’re talking about  a six-year deal. I’ll take a five-year deal (if need be).”

Indiana is currently receiving 95 cents back on each tax dollar that it sends to Washington. In recent discussions, Donnelly voted no on a proposal that would have included Indiana’s share dropping to between 90 cents and 92 cents on the dollar. The goal, he says, is for no state to be funded at a lower percentage level than in the last long-term deal.

Transportation funding has been dependent on a series of short-term extensions that have not provided the resources needed for states to act with any certainty. Donnelly cited several instances of the damaging impact in Indiana, including the current closure of Interstate 65 near Lafayette due to bridge instability.

“Roads aren’t Republican or Democrat; they’re roads,” he explains. “There’s no way to do this without investment. I’m for seven different ways to fund this thing. Just pick one (or more). I just want to build roads.”

Donnelly also discussed potential changes to the Affordable Care Act (including his support for elimination of the medical device tax), the consequences of Washington legislating through Executive Orders, the debt limit, immigration, Iran, global environmental concerns and more.

Congress is scheduled to resume its work in Washington after Labor Day. Indiana Chamber members will be traveling to Washington on September 16-17 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. You can still register to participate.

Paying for the Road(s) to Success

Stimulus. Cap and trade. Health care reform. All have been/are vying for attention — and dollars — in Washington. But what about transportation funding? You know, paying for the highways, bridges and infrastructure that help keep our country moving.

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter was one of more than 100 association and business leaders to converge on Washington yesterday to deliver the "Transportation is Your Business" message to lawmakers. The SAFETEA-LU (you have to love those Washington acronyms) authorizing legislation expires on September 30. Delays on a new funding plan are normal, but the U.S. Chamber (organizer of this event) and the business community don’t want those in the nation’s capital to overlook these vital resources.

Among the major challenges is the fact that the traditional funding source for transportation projects, the federal gasoline tax, is generally regarded as nowhere near adequate to meet future needs. More public-private partnerships (see Major Moves here in Indiana) are touted as one of the solutions, but protectionist attitudes have put a damper on these projects. Washington, states, locals and more must begin to realize and accept that additional foreign investment is a good thing.

Transportation investment helps drive the economy (creating jobs in construction, engineering and more) and cost-effective and efficient services are essential for companies and their employees. If we can’t move products and people, we’re basically out of business.

A recent report noted that President Obama and some congressional leaders favor an 18-month extension of the current law before tackling a new agreement. If that time was spent developing new and innovative strategies to meet current and future needs, MAYBE it would be a good idea. Deadlines in Washington, however, like at the state level, often mean the work doesn’t get done until that drop dead time approaches (or passes). Carter reports from Washington that the 18-month extension is likely to become a reality.

Transportation investment is a big issue. Companies, large and small, and their employees can’t really afford for it to be put on the back burner.

You can join Carter, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and Indiana business leaders on September 23-24 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. On a more immediate front, Carter and Chamber health care expert Mike Ripley will discuss the fast track efforts on health care reform during Friday’s Policy Issue Conference Call for members.