With long-term federal infrastructure investment in the balance, the results of the 2014 mid-term elections have given NAPA and the asphalt pavement industry new opportunities and challenges in securing a guaranteed revenue source for the ailing Highway Trust Fund. Both the 113th Congress’s lame-duck session that starts later this month and 114th Congress that starts in January offer possibilities for action.
Here is a quick summary of the major takeaways from the 2014 election results and how they will affect the highway construction industry:
House: Republicans picked up at least 14 seats, giving them a 243–178 majority. However, many seats replaced moderates with conservatives, giving Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) limited avenues for passing tax increases or growing the size of the federal government.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) will continue to work with leadership to bring a transportation reauthorization to the floor.
Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) lost his race and will be replaced in the top Democratic spot by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who is very familiar with infrastructure issues though does not have as close a relationship with the Chairman.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be the next Chairman of Ways and Means Committee, making him in charge of solving the Highway Trust Fund solvency issue. However, Ryan’s 2013 budget cut transportation funding to match Highway Trust Fund receipts, so it’s unclear how he will seek to resolve the issue.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) will most likely become chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, setting expenditure levels for the program.
Senate: The Republican tsunami resulted in major changes in the Senate, flipping control from Democrats to Republicans with at least 53 members. While the Republicans can now set the agenda in the upper chamber, unless the Senate’s standing rules are changed, 60 votes will still be required for most legislation to pass.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will take over as Majority Leader and set the floor agenda. It will be critical that this agenda includes highway funding early on as Republicans need to prove they can do their jobs and make good policy for the country.
In this take over, GOP senators who served as ranking members on key committees will now become chairmen who are responsible for making policy decisions on highway funding and helping to roll back regulations that have been costly to the industry.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will forgo leading the Armed Services Committee and take over as Environment and Public Works Committee chairman. Not only was he integral to the success of MAP-21, but he is a close industry friend who knows how to craft compromises.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) elevates to Finance Committee chairman, becoming responsible for solving the Highway Trust Fund revenue problem in the Senate. During the trust fund patch negotiations, this committee worked in a very bipartisan way and it’s believed it will continue in that fashion.
Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL) will take the helm of the Budget Committee, leaving some on the highway side concerned as he is a “no more spending” conservative.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is expected to chair the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee.
Ballot Initiatives: There were numerous ballot initiatives dealing with transportation funding around the country. The outcome of these votes could shape the thinking of Federal lawmakers in dealing with transportation funding.
Louisiana voters rejected the creation of a state infrastructure bank.
Maryland and Wisconsin voters approved constitutional amendments preventing highway trust funds from being diverted to non-transportation projects.
Massachusetts voters repealed a state law allowing indexing of motor fuel taxes.
Texas voters approved conditional transfers of oil and gas production tax revenues to the State Highway Trust Fund.
At the local and county levels, support for transportation funding was mixed.
The American public remains uncertain about funding for transportation programs. Education and outreach must continue in order to make them understand the need to maintain and improve the infrastructure we have to benefit the economy and generations to come.
Next Steps: The work of the 113th Congress is not complete. Lawmakers return to Washington the week of Nov. 12 to finish the session … and plenty is left to do. Congress must pass legislation to extend funding for the government and highway programs beyond the Dec. 11 deadline. A number of popular tax provisions expire at the end of the year. They either need to be extended or made permanent. The President and congressional leaders will meet on Friday to discuss the agenda for the lame-duck session, and NAPA is working with the Highway Material Group to press for consideration of a gas tax increase before the end of the year. In the meantime, members of the 114th Congress will be meeting to get organized and elect party leaders. The legislative agenda for next year will include:
Reauthorization of MAP-21
Reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs
What Can You Do?
NAPA has been running a ground game in Washington, meeting with members of Congress and staff on the need to find long-term, guaranteed revenues for the Highway Trust Fund. NAPA’s Government Affairs website has been updated to show what highway projects are at risk in each state if Congress does not fix this issue. NAPA will continue to meet with current and new members of Congress and their staff, but it is important for the asphalt pavement industry to continue hosting plant tours and district meetings with lawmakers to educate them about what the industry does to make America work. NAPA will continue working to get a vote on revenues during the lame-duck session of Congress. Information about what you can do can be found at www.asphaltpavement .org or contact Michele Stanley at firstname.lastname@example.org