Monday, January 16 , 2017, 3:17 am | Fair 43º

 
 
 

Tom Donohue: A Commonsense Fix to Crumbling Roads and Bridges

When it comes to the U.S. infrastructure system, our leaders and the business community are in firm agreement on a few crucial things. We all know that the system is a critical national asset that drives growth, jobs, safety, mobility, trade and enhanced global competitiveness. We all understand that we’re running out of money to fund it. We all believe that the federal government must take a leading role in making sure our infrastructure system contributes to a strong economy. And we all recognize that we need a predictable, stable, and growing source of revenue for today, an intermediate funding solution for tomorrow, and, in the long run, a new system.

Now it’s time to work toward an agreement on how to address this challenge.

There are a number of ideas on the table. But when you look at the big picture, the simplest, most straightforward and most effective way to generate enough revenue is by increasing federal gasoline and diesel taxes.

The gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1993. Cars are more fuel efficient, people are driving less and inflation has eaten into purchasing power. As a result, the Highway Trust Fund — which supports vital projects to maintain America’s roads, highways and bridges — is going bankrupt. We are already borrowing billions of dollars from the general fund. Next year there will be a $13 billion cash shortfall. By 2020, it will be $100 billion.

A moderate increase in the gas tax phased in over time would provide the necessary funding and stability, and it would preserve the important principle that those who use our infrastructure should help pay for it.

And a majority of the public is willing to step in and help. A San Jose State University researcher found that 58 percent of people polled would support a gas tax increase if they knew it would be applied to building and maintaining roads, bridges and transit systems.

Providing this transparent, predictable funding stream through a gas tax increase would help show voters where the money is going and how it is being used. They need to know that it’s not going to be wasted. Far too many people across the country are unaware of important reforms that eliminated earmarks and “pork barrel” spending long associated with infrastructure funding.

The consequences of decreased investment are higher costs for goods, more congestion, increased accidents, as well as reduced mobility and competitiveness. I think we can all agree that we don’t want that!

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with the business community and our nation’s leaders to build support for commonsense solutions to our infrastructure challenges.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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