Pushing for Long-Term Transportation Bill, No Delay
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will not support the Obama Administration’s suggestion to temporarily extend the current surface transportation funding bill instead of reauthorizing it, with greater investment, for a full six-year period, according to Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue.
A well-maintained infrastructure is important for jobs, the economy, and U.S. competitiveness, Donohue said, and "to those who argue that we should postpone transportation reauthorization until Congress has finished on other issues like health care, energy, even the mid-term elections, I say we strongly disagree. There is no excuse for delay."
Donohue was responding to the administration’s desire to extend the current funding bill, which expires September 30, for18 months or longer. He and Office Depot Chairman and CEO Steve Odland spoke to reporters at a press conference as part of the Chamber’s "Transportation is Your Business" fly-in July 14-15. More than 100 business leaders and association and local chamber of commerce executives from 28 states were in Washington, D.C., for briefings at the Chamber and visits to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives on funding legislation.
Noting that the federal fuel tax has not been raised in more than 15 years, Odland and Donohue agreed that the business community is prepared to pay higher fuel taxes to pay for strong transportation infrastructure. "We’re business, and we’re willing to pay more to fix the problem and apply it to transportation," Odland said.
Donohue pointed out that it would be easier to raise the gas tax now rather than next year, when the Bush tax cuts expire, but he stopped short of suggesting how much the tax should increase. “Congress should figure out what is reasonable,” he said.
Donohue added that the reauthorization bill introduced by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is a good start but lacks details on funding and includes provisions that the Chamber opposes, such as a Buy American provision on infrastructure projects. Donohue also criticized the bill for not providing enough support for another funding mechanism endorsed by the Chamber—public-private partnerships.
The fly-in at Chamber headquarters is part of a comprehensive advertising, grassroots, and lobbying campaign in support of transportation reauthorization. The effort includes billboard, bus, commuter train, magazine, and Web site advertisements and opinion pieces in local newspapers.