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Lipinski: Shuster Draft Infrastructure Plan a Good Start But Needs Work

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) issued the following statement after the release of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s discussion draft of proposed infrastructure investment legislation:

“More than a year and a half ago, President Trump promised a trillion dollars for much-needed infrastructure, but nothing has been delivered.  This has been a missed opportunity to work on a bipartisan priority that is needed for America’s success.  So I’m pleased that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster has put out a draft bill that I hope will begin the serious discussion we need to have.  Chairman Shuster’s infrastructure plan is a good start and I commend him for putting forth a serious proposal, but the plan needs work.

“It is critical that we acknowledge and deal with the looming shortfall of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and this proposal offers a detailed plan.  It would increase the federal motor fuel tax, expand the tax base, and restructure contributions in the long run.  The gas tax would be increased by 15 cents per gallon over three years, while diesel would be increased by 20 cents per gallon over the same period.  After that, the taxes would be increased annually by the rate of inflation.  A number of new taxes, including on the sale of electric car batteries and bicycle tires would also be deposited into the HTF.  Chairman Shuster estimates that this new revenue will be sufficient to keep the trust fund solvent and fund significant new investment in our nation’s infrastructure over the next decade.

“I am troubled by parts of the proposal which would effectively raise the tax burden on mass transit systems, increasing their operating costs while simultaneously siphoning off funds that could otherwise be used for much-needed capital investments.  Ultimately, these are costs that would be passed along to riders, making public transit less affordable and less effective, and diminishing the effectiveness of federal transit support.  I also believe that collecting taxes on bicycle tires isn’t a wise policy choice, as bike riders use so little of our federally-funded infrastructure, and there are many secondary benefits from active transportation modes like cycling.

“The proposal also makes changes to federal programs that fund local water and sewer projects, which could be helpful to the many municipalities in our area that face huge costs for repair or replacement of crumbling systems. 

“I am pleased to see important policy improvements for Projects of National and Regional Significance, BUILD grants, and the RRIF program.  Projects like CREATE have broad benefits on mobility, freight, the environment, and our quality of life, but pulling together funding for such large-scale projects has been a challenge.  Giving Congress new authorities to promote projects, increasing funding for big infrastructure and expanding opportunities for rail and transit-oriented developments, will help us move forward more vital projects that will benefit our communities.

“However, the draft does contain a number of streamlining provisions which are similar to the Trump Administration’s proposal that could circumvent key environmental protections and weaken public input during the project planning and development process.  Cutting unnecessary bureaucratic red tape is good, but we cannot do it at the expense of our environment and public input.

“Now is the time for bold leadership on the future of our nation’s infrastructure.  I appreciate the time and thought that went into Chairman Shuster’s proposal, and I look forward to continuing to work in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to examine its feasibility, and ultimately pass legislation with real investments and improvements to our nation’s infrastructure.”