HTF Expiration: Sample Information Piece/Article

Congress Needs the 411 on our Highways, Bridges and Transit Systems

As expiration nears of the current legislation that provides funding for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) – the revenue source that pays for our nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems – extremist forces who have railed against the federal highway and transit programs for years are out in full force. Their legions are busily spreading misinformation through media, and they are ultimately espousing policy that is bad for consumers and businesses.

Recent missives provide inaccurate and wrong-headed reasons why Congress doesn’t really need to address the federal fuel user fee this year. The claims boil down to: increasing it will whittle away at the savings Americans are experiencing because of nearly record-low gas prices, the program was intended to pay for highways and now much of it is used to pay for mass transit, and the HTF will still get and spend a tremendous amount of money this year even if Congress doesn’t take the necessary steps to sustain it.

These claims, to put it simply, don’t have the facts on their side. With the deadline for Congressional action–July 31–quickly approaching, now is the time to get up to speed on those facts and share them with your elected representatives so their decisions relating to the HTF can be based on the truth rather than on extremist fiction:

FICTIONAL CLAIM: There’s no HTF or transportation infrastructure crisis on the horizon; it’s ok for Congress to continue kicking the can down the road by passing short-term legislation that re-authorizes the HTF one or two years at a time. FACT: America can’t afford NOT to fix the HTF or the transportation infrastructure it funds; the federal highway and transit programs are integral to the nation’s economic growth and the longer Congress takes to fix the problem, the more consumers and businesses pay to fix vehicles that experience damage because of deteriorating infrastructure. The average person is currently paying $8 a month in federal fuel user fee. Meanwhile, per household, the cost of deficient surface transportation is $1,060 per year, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. A 10 to 15 cent per gallon increase would mean an additional $4 to $6 dollars a month, a reasonable amount for users of the federal highway network to pay to maintain and progress this network so it is more efficient, reliable and safe.

FICTION: Mass transit is not essential to the federal transportation program; the federal government is forcing transit programs onto states. FACT: Transit began receiving highway funding in 1982 under Ronald Reagan, when it became clear that congestion could not be addressed solely though roads—members of Congress from both parties determined transit was an essential piece of the solution. The bi-partisan MAP-21 gave a significant amount of discretion to state and local governments to decide into which modes of transportation and specific projects they would like to invest money they receive through the HTF. If state and local governments decided to invest funds provided into mass transit, they did so because they determined those were the projects that would improve the economy, livability, efficiency or safety in their communities.

FICTION: Transportation infrastructure projects are too expensive and the HTF won’t really go broke if spending habits are changed. FACT: The costs of highway and transit projects have escalated over the past two decades because everything is more expensive: the real purchasing power of 18.4 cents has slipped because of inflation and increases in wages and materials since 1993. Since the federal fuel user fee was last raised 20 years ago, the inflationary bite means that the current 18.4 cents per-gallon user fee is effectively worth about 11.5 cents today compared to when it was last increased in 1993. The WSJ has noted, “the tax buys about half the concrete, steel and other materials it did 20 years ago.

FICTION: The HTF won’t really go broke. FACT: It’s well established that the HTF will become insolvent in the summer of 2015 if legislation re-authorizing MAP-21 is not passed and signed into law, meaning if Congress does not act, the federal government will slow or stop sending checks to state DOTs this summer. The economic consequences of not being able to pay contractors and employees will send shockwaves throughout our economy. Several states have already announced they are suspending numerous road projects (and the jobs that go along with them) due to the uncertainty of the federal role in building and maintaining our nation’s infrastructure. Hundreds of projects slated to begin around the country will not move forward if MAP-21 is not re-authorized. The economic benefits of building infrastructure projects are clear:  for every $1 of federal highway investment approximately $1.80 to $2.00 in additional growth in goods and services follows. It is irresponsible for Congress – just because of the threats of extremists that seats will roll – not to act to prevent the negative economic impact – on communities across America and the economy as a whole – of inaction.

It is irresponsible for Congress – just because of the threats of extremists to campaign against them – not to act to prevent the negative economic impact of inaction – on communities across America and the overall economy. Facts matter, and Americans deserve better than the current out-of-date highways, bridges and transit systems we currently have. Time is of the essence to write Congress to let them know we all support the facts.