Over a month ago, the president stood before the country, on most all of the television stations and gave his State of the Union speech. In it he outlined how he planned to rebuild our failing infrastructure.
President Obama rolled out two proposals to fix America's highway system, including 70,000 structurally deficient bridges.
While the announcement drew applause from Congress, the small-business truckers and their companies were left wondering how their industry would be affected.
"Tonight, I propose a 'Fix-It-First' program to put people to work as soon as possible on our urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country," he stated. Fix-It-First calls for a quick infusion of $50 billion to pay for urgent repairs needed to our countries infrastructure. With any proposal, the devil will be in the details of what was said and not said.
Congress first must come up with a way to plug a $138 billion gap in the Highway Trust Fund after the current highway bill expires in 2014.
President Obama made it clear the administration would be calling on the private sector to invest in infrastructure, going beyond highways and bridges to include pipelines, power grids, and ports. He called it a "Partnership to Rebuild America. And to make sure taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden, I'm also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most."
The American Truckers Association supports a robust federal transportation program paid for by user fees, namely the fuel tax. The association opposes a patchwork of public-private toll roads and alternatives such as a tax on vehicle miles traveled to pay for the highway trust fund. I know that no one believes that a magic bullet is available at this point to supplant the fuel tax. We have all heard that ad nauseam, that raising taxes is not popular, but they are far better than any of the options that have been offered so far.
So, at what point did we stop doing something because it's only 95 percent effective? We have never had anything that was 100 percent.
The Association is also concerned about being over-regulated. Remember that now that both houses of Congress have submitted a budget they are looking for other projects to get behind. It will only take one third of the Transportation Committee to put on the floor some of the bumpiest ideas for fixing the highway trust fund.
Nevertheless, the only thing that will come out of all of this will be an increase in the fuel tax, which could be coming as early as the end of the summer. Remember the President said he was not going to raise taxes on the middle class. Thank you, Mr. President.