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What We're Reading in Infrastructure, July 2

The staff of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Executive Council on Infrastructure share some recent publications, speeches, and testimony relevant to infrastructure policy and finance. The views expressed in these pieces do not necessarily represent the views of the council, its co-chairs, members, advisors or BPC.

Compiled by Nikki Rudnick, Katie Golden and Jake Varn

It’s Time to Move America Forward
By Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) & Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Bond Buyer

“For one of the largest economies in the world known for its strength and leadership, we are falling behind other countries. Infrastructure spending has continued to decline since 1960, now at less than 2% of GDP annually behind China at 9% and Europe at 5%. Meanwhile our population continues to grow and with it come new demands on our aging transportation system.

“How do we get back on track and safeguard the health of our transportation infrastructure? The first step is for Congress to ensure the solvency of the trust funds for highways, transit, airports, ports, and waterways. Critical infrastructure projects demand long term planning and certainty, not a continual cycle of start-stop efforts. We must aim for a long-term, bipartisan solution so that every year states don’t have to put projects on hold for fear of running out of funds.” Read the full article.

Hearing: Meeting the Transportation Needs of Rural America
U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Witness List:

  • The Honorable Paul Trombino III, Director, Iowa Department of Transportation; on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – Testimony
  • The Honorable Bob Fox, Commissioner, Renville County, Minnesota; on behalf of the National Association of Counties – Testimony
  • Mr. Michael Steenhoek, Executive Director, Soy Transportation Coalition – Testimony
  • Mr. Steve Woelfel, President, Jefferson Lines; on behalf of the American Bus Association – Testimony
  • Mr. Charles L. “Shorty” Whittington, President, Grammer Industries, Inc.; on behalf of The Fertilizer Institute – Testimony

Opening statement from Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO):

“Rural roads are rarely in the spotlight. They generally don’t command our attention because they don’t suffer from the severe congestion we see in our cities and suburbs, and they are not often in the limelight for flashy ribbon-cuttings.

“But rural roads and bridges are what knit our highways together into an interconnected, national system. They make it possible for freight to move seamlessly throughout the country and for tourists to enjoy road trips at low cost, and they allow other motorists to travel conveniently for short trips or long distances.” View the full hearing.

Hearing: Repatriation of Foreign Earnings as a Source of Funding for the Highway Trust Fund
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures

Witness List:

  • Mr. Tom Barthold, Chief of Staff, Joint Committee on Taxation – Testimony
  • Mr. Dirk Suringa, Partner, Covington & Burling LLP – Testimony
  • Mr. Curtis Dubay, Tax & Economic Policy Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation – Testimony
  • Ms. Jane Gravelle, Senior Specialist in Economic Policy, Congressional Research Service – Testimony

Opening statement from Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA):

“?as you will hear today, current repatriation proposals are not that simple nor are they without serious policy implications. That is why we are having this hearing?to drill down on what people mean when they say repatriation and how the different forms of repatriation work. A key, but often overlooked, part of this is that repatriation includes taxing earnings that have been reinvested abroad.” View the full hearing.

Unlocking the Private Sector: State Innovations in Financing Transportation Infrastructure
U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

Member Statements:

Witness Testimony:

  • The Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN – Testimony
  • The Honorable Shailen P. Bhatt, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Transportation, Denver, CO – Testimony
  • Mr. David Narefsky, Partner, Co-Leader, Infrastructure Practice Group, Mayer Brown, Chicago, IL – Testimony
  • Mr. Baruch Feigenbaum, Assistant Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, CA – Testimony

Statement from Sen. Orrin Hatch:

“At the outset, I want to make sure it is clear that, while they are important, these financing alternatives and ideas are not meant to address the immediate shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. As long as our federal highway program is based upon reimbursements to states made on a formula basis, there is no workable substitute for federal funding.

“Instead, today’s discussion will be about additional tools that states can use to better determine and respond to their own infrastructure needs. I think we also need be clear on what financing is and what it is not.” View the full hearing.

The State of Transportation Funding: A Realistic Examination of Pseudo-Federalism
By Joshua L. Schank, Ph.D and Elizabeth Bastian, Eno Center, The Huffington Post

“According to a 2014 Pew Charitable Trust study entitled “Intergovernmental Challenges in Surface Transportation Funding” state spending on transportation dropped by 20% between 2002 and 2012 compared to a drop of 4% at the federal level. This tracks closely with the long-term decline in gas tax revenues across all levels of government, which peaked in 2004.” Read the full article.

Private Capital, Public Good: Drivers of Successful Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships
By Patrick Sabol and Robert Puentes, Brookings Institution

“These public-private partnerships (PPPs) are alternately framed as a panacea to all of America’s infrastructure challenges or a corporate takeover of critical public assets. In reality, they are neither. A well-executed PPP is simply another tool for procuring or managing public infrastructure?albeit a new and increasingly popular one.2 The growing interest can be attributed to a number of factors, including tightening budgets, increased project complexity, better value for money, the desire to leverage private sector expertise, and shifting public sector priorities.” Read the full report. Read the press release.

Where America’s worst roads are ? and how much they’re costing us
By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

“The shoddy state of the nation’s roads cost the average driver $515 in extra operation and maintenance costs on their car, according to the latest analysis from TRIP, a national transportation research group. Meanwhile, the Highway Trust Fund is about to become insolvent, and congressional lawmakers can’t agree on a temporary fix that experts say is nothing more than a band-aid, and an inadequate one at that.” Read the full article.

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