Government Affairs

Fly-In Delivers Strong Message, but Reveals Mixed Results on Funding

A series of legislative advocacy events in mid-April provided the opportunity for members, Chapter/State affiliates, and ACPA staff to discuss highway funding and other issues.

The events included the Highway Materials Group Meeting on April 14; the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Fly-In on April 14 and 15; and the Cement & Concrete Industry Briefing on April 15. 

The TCC fly-in included briefings by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.-08); House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.-09); U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx; and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.-04), as well as remarks by association leaders.

The HMG meeting included remarks by Subcommittee on Highways and Transit  Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.-06) and Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio-07), as well as a Congressional Tax Staff panel, and remarks by association leaders.

The Cement & Concrete Industry Briefing was kicked off by Jim Toscas, President & CEO of the Portland Cement Association, and also included briefing by association staff on a wide range of current events and issues.   Representing ACPA, Leif Wathne, P.E., Executive Vice President, provided an update on the Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technologies (AID-PT) provision of MAP 21, making the case for reauthorizing the program in the next highway bill.  

Mixed Results on Highway Funding
One bit of good news from Capitol Hill is that the authorizing committees in both the House and Senate are busy drafting   the transportation reauthorization legislation, Wathne said.   In contrast, the  committees with jurisdiction over the funding portion do not appear to be much closer to a solution, he says, noting “there is no appetite to address the funding before the current extension expires on May 31,”  Wathne said.  He added that HTF funding levels may actually last through the end of July, but warned there is still an urgent need to find solutions.  In the broader context, the Highway Trust Fund has been near insolvency for years, a situation that did not exist before the end of SAFETEA-LU, Wathne said.

“Doing nothing is a choice and is the least fiscally responsible choice possible,” he said.  “In effect, this amounts to  freeloading on the investment made by previous generations, and is squandering that investment, leaving future generations to deal with the issue.

“Our broader transportation construction industry has been patient and proactive in making suggestions and recommending viable recommendations,” Wathne said.   He points to ARTBA’s “Getting Beyond Gridlock” proposal, which would fund a six-year, $401 billion program by combining 15 cents-per-gallon increase in the federal gas and diesel motor fuels tax with a 100% offsetting federal tax rebate for middle and lower income Americans.   A proposal was also put forward by the Vice Chair of ACPA’s Legislative Issues Task Force, Gerry Krozel;  the proposal involved addressing the funding gap with a national vehicle registration user fee.   

Wathne also cited solutions for fixing the HTF from the Tax Foundation; a gas tax proposal from Rep. Earl Blumenauer  (D-Ore.-03); a proposed HTF fix from Jim Renacci (R-Ohio-16); an HTF and tax-reduction proposal from Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.); and other proposals that have been recommended by Congress or transportation industry organizations.    There are others and likely will be more still.   Wathne says ACPA is in favor of any viable solutions to address the funding issue, adding, “we are particularly supportive of proposals that are based on user fees.”

Kicking the Can
The disappointing news is that none of these proposals seems to have gained serious traction in Congress, effectively deferring solving the HTF issue indefinitely, a situation that has been called, “kicking the can.”  (For another perspective on this, see the related story, “Voigt Responds to Lack of Support for Highway Funding.”)

“This is hampering growth and progress in addressing the critical needs of the nation’s highways,” Wathne said, adding, “DOT’s can’t plan and will be forced to postpone projects, and the result will be the future costs will be higher whenever the project is finally started.

“What is particularly disconcerting is that this is done under the pretense of fiscal conservatism, something that is a gross distortion of reality,” Wathne said.  “We rely on Congressional leaders to lead, and although we have seen some excellent proposals from a few Members of Congress, it is disappointing that that some of the Leadership is not focusing on, let alone embracing, these solutions.”

Wathne is quick to add, “It is easy to point fingers, but we, the broader transportation construction industry, own some of this ourselves.   We have been and continue to be supportive of elected officials who have not been helpful.”

He added a growing number of organizations are seriously considering adjusting their posture to provide support to those who are not just committed to, but are actually taking decisive actions to address the critical needs of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.

Voigt Responds to Lack of Support for Highway Funding

Mark Kirk is the junior senator from Illinois.  (Photo:  Sen. Mark Kirk for Illinois website.)

Mark Kirk is the junior senator from Illinois. (Photo: Sen. Mark Kirk for Illinois website.)

Editor’s Note:  Earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx chided Congress for settling on temporary infrastructure funding measures, according to The Hill (April 23 ed.).  “How can you plan, as a researcher or a civil engineer in a transportation department, if you don’t have long-term certainty” Foxx said. “I think the American people are going to have to say at some point, ‘This is enough. We can’t keep driving on these potholes.’”   This comment typifies the concerns being heard in meetings, industry briefings, op-ed articles, and other discussions throughout the transportation-construction community.  After a disappointing meeting with John Horstman, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jerry Voigt responded with an email message that was both direct and insightful.  The message follows below.  ACPA encourages members and affiliates to let us know about conversations and correspondence with  your elected officials, too.   — Bill Davenport, ACPA TODAY

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“Thanks for your time this week – I appreciated you fitting me into your schedule.  

“I am quite disappointed that Senator Kirk is unwilling to take a stronger stand for Illinois and our nation’s highways, and for the businesses and families that count on them.  As a constituent and a pavement engineer with firsthand knowledge of the poor structural state of many of our important national and state arteries, as well as lack of highway capacity that costs citizens in Illinois and all over the country hundreds of dollars per year in lost time, I assure you the conservative principles upon which the Senator is hanging his hat are misplaced. 

“An increase in the motor fuel user fee would cost the average citizen far less than what they are paying in lost time and additional vehicle expenses on an increasingly substandard overall system.  They also will pay for it in increased fees for goods and services associated with increased shipping costs.  Numerous commissions have concluded that increasing the user fee is the most efficient and practical solution now while we transition to a vehicle mile traveled or national registration fee that captures alternative fuel vehicles more fairly, all of which will take time to implement.

“I have contributed to and voted for Senator Kirk in the past, but this issue is a seminal one for me, my family, my employees, and many of the Illinois businesses my association represents.  I consider myself a principled fiscal conservative.  I simply don’t believe that the highway program should be lumped in with the entitlement programs that are the source of frustration to me, Senator Kirk, and other fiscal conservatives.   

“Leadership is doing what is right.  I cannot in my good conscience sit by and watch while Senator Kirk and other conservative leaders mortgage the future of our kids by punting tough decisions now and effectively squandering the important investments that have been made by past leaders to build our nation’s highway infrastructure and our economic power in the world.  Presidents Eisenhour, Reagan, and George Bush I all signed bills that raised the motor fuel users fee on the understanding that a sound transportation system underpins the economy!   

“Roads and bridges wear out structurally with use and need to be repaired and replaced regularly.  They have direct impact on our nation’s economic health and national defense.  By continually delaying action to truly fix this funding and legislative problem (in the name of fighting entitlements), Senator Kirk is party to a very anti-conservative principle.  The true cost to make those repairs and improvements will continue to escalate, our economic position will be undermined further, our national defense weakened, and we will leave the next generation to pay for this lack of leadership and inaction.  I do understand and support a fight against entitlement programs and uncontrolled spending, but this is quite different.  It is my sincerest hope that Senator Kirk rethinks the conservative principles upon which he is resting his decision.   

“Thanks again for taking the time to meet with me and listen to my concerns.  I would sincerely appreciate you suggesting Senator Kirk read this note so he may reflect on the issue some more and allow the implications of doing nothing on the premise of conservative principles to rest further on his conscience.”  

Gerald F. Voigt, P.E.
President & CEO
American Concrete Pavement Association

ACPA Urges Participation in Advocacy Events in Mid-April

ACPA is urging members and affiliates to participate in the Transportation Construction Fly-In, as well as two other important and timely events, all of which will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 14 and 15. 

Beginning on April 14, the Highway Materials Group* will meet from 10:00 a.m. (EST) to Noon in the Columbia A Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Washington.

TCC-sm-2015The TCC Legislative Briefing follows from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., also at the Hyatt Regency Washington.  This event will be followed by the TCC Capitol Hill Reception at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Washington. 

On April 15, 3rd Annual Cement & Concrete Day on the Hill.  Hosted by Portland Cement Association (PCA) and other partners, including ACPA, the event hill2015focuses on  specific issues of importance to the cement and concrete industries, while also emphasizing the essential role these materials have in the construction, rehabilitation,  and preservation of our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.

A schedule of events follows: 

  • Cement & Concrete Industry Briefing – 10 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (EST), Science Committee Hearing Room, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.  This event gives participants an opportunity to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing our industry.
  • Congressional Outreach Meeting – Noon to 5 p.m., House and Senate Office Buildings.  This period is reserved for Capitol Hill meetings, which PCA’s Washington, D.C. staff will assist in scheduling.
  • Cement & Concrete Industry Reception – 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Hearing Room, 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.  This reception provides an opportunity to meet with legislators, legislative staff, and industry colleagues in a relaxed setting.

Event and Hotel Registration
Please note that separate event registration is required for the TCC Fly-In and the Cement & Concrete Industry Day on the Hill.  

  • Click here to register for the TCC Fly-In.
  • Click here to register for the Cement & Concrete Industry Day on the Hill.

Also, ACPA has been informed that the room block at the Hyatt Regency Washington is completely sold.   Click here to view a list of other hotels in the area (e.g., within two blocks.)

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* The Highway Materials Group is comprised of the American Concrete Pavement Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Associated Equipment Distributors, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, and the Portland Cement Association.

ACPA Stands Firm on Surface Transportation Legislation, Opposes Devolution

ACPA was one of more than three dozen organizations that co-signed a letter supporting passage of a robust, long-term bill that will provide certainty for the nation’s future transportation needs. The letter, sent to all 100 U.S. Senators and 435 U.S. representatives, also stated firm opposition to devolution of the Federal-aid surface transportation program.

One such devolution proposal is the “Transportation Empowerment Act” (TEA), previously introduced and considered in the 113th Congress. TEA is an ill-conceived proposal that would strip away most federal funding for surface transportation projects, essentially eliminating the federal government’s constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce, say the coalition of groups and companies that penned the letter to Congress.

ACPA has remained steadfast in its support of a well-funded, long-term legislation to meet the critical needs of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure system, and in the same vein, has also strongly opposed devolution programs. 

The letter is one of the latest messages imploring Congress to support reauthorization ahead of the May 31 expiration of the latest extension to the highway bill, which experts liken to “kicking the can” or delaying the Highway Trust Fund solutions and robust, long-term legislation necessary to meet the needs of highway users and others dependent upon the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.

The letter was advanced by a diverse, but unified coalition of transportation companies and other highway users; transportation-construction groups; and other organizations, including AAA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

ACPA has been at the forefront of outreach and communications efforts with Congress. In February, ACPA and other members of the Highway Materials Group (HMG), sent a similar to message to Congress. The letter emphasized the HMG’s four basic principles for reauthorization and also opposed devolution.   

ACPA, the Chamber of Commerce, and other transportation associations also have been visible and vocal on the issues of reauthorization and devolution.  An example can be seen in a September 2014 coalition letter, which expressed similar messages.

Since then, the groundswell of support for a federal reauthorization and opposition to devolution has resulted in more companies, organizations, and individuals raising an increasingly vociferous call for reauthorization and opposition to programs aimed at “strip(ping) away most federal funding for surface transportation projects, essentially eliminating the federal government’s constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce.”

Highway Materials Group Urges Congressional Leaders to Take Action

In a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this month, the Highway Materials Group (HMG)* urged the Congressional leaders to take action by leading their colleagues in Congress to act now to fund America’s surface transportation infrastructure.  

ACPA is a founding member of the HMG, which also articulated in the letter four principles for Federal-aid surface transportation reauthorization.   These include:  

  • America’s Economic Prosperity/Global Competitiveness – America’s economic vitality depends on an
    HMG-BoehnerPelosi-Letter-Feb2015-sm

    Letter from the Highway Materials Group urges Congressional leaders to act now on highway funding.

    integrated national, intermodal surface transportation network that moves goods and people to maximize global competitiveness, quality of life, and economic prosperity for all citizens. Unfortunately, the investments needed to maintain and expand the highway system have been inadequate. As a result, America is ill-prepared to meet the competitive demands of the global economy.
  • Constitutional Responsibility – Maintaining a vital, national infrastructure has been a federal responsibility since the founding of the Republic. Congress is tasked with establishing “post roads,” pre-cursors of today’s national highway system, and regulating commerce among the states and with other nations. Commerce is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy, and America’s transportation infrastructure is its circulatory system. This network of roads and transportation structures – built by Americans employed in well-paying jobs that cannot be exported – is essential for the economic growth, safety, security, freedom of mobility, and quality of life benefiting every American. We oppose efforts to transfer this responsibility to the states as an unfunded federal mandate.
  • User-fee based – In order to overcome the highway funding gap, we support the adoption of any user-fee based funding options and innovative finance tools to provide federal and state transportation departments with the funding they need to make critical investments in our transportation infrastructure.
  • Timeliness/Long-term authorization – The longer Congress delays in making the investments necessary to our highways, roads and bridges, the more difficult and expensive it will be for our nation to finance this critical and necessary endeavor. At a time when cost is paramount, Congress must act now. Timely enactment of a six-year authorization bill is critical for state transportation departments to plan and budget for projects and for our industry to make critical business decisions.

Click  here to see the letter and here to see other legislative news and updates from ACPA.

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* The Highway Materials Group is comprised of the American Concrete Pavement Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Associated Equipment Distributors, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, and the Portland Cement Association.

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