Washington D.C. – Congressman Smith released the following statement on the passage of the bipartisan conference report of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act:
December 3, 2015
A well-functioning and efficient surface transportation network is critical for future economic growth. Investment in our nation's infrastructure and public transit provides jobs for thousands, allows for the efficient movement of goods that keeps our economy growing, and ensures the safety of countless lives.
Today, the House passed H.R. 22, the bipartisan conference report of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act. H.R. 22 is a long-term five-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) that allows for funding of projects to continue through 2020, and authorizes appropriations from the trust fund to continue through FY 2022. This legislation creates a program for nationally significant freight and highway projects that is to be funded through the HTF, while also establishing a national multimodal freight policy to improve efficiency in the movement of goods across all modes of transportation. In addition, H.R. 22 renews the critically important Export-Import Bank through FY 2019. While the bill provides $281 billion in guaranteed funding for highway, transit, and transportation safety programs over the next five years, $12.8 billion more than provided by the House-passed bill, it includes no new or increased revenues for the HTF.
This reauthorization is not perfect and contains problematic provisions. However, I supported this legislation because it gives our states and the economy the certainty that is crucial to continue funding infrastructure projects around the country. A great deal of federal transportation spending is supported by gas tax revenues that are deposited into the HTF. The tax rates on gasoline and diesel fuel are not adjusted for inflation, have not been increased in more than twenty years, and each year lose buying power to pay for transportation improvements and repairs. H.R. 22 extends existing taxes through 2022, but it does not increase gas tax rates or index them to inflation, and it does not address a coming shortfall in revenues for the HTF.
While this bill is a necessary step forward, Congress and the American people need to have an honest debate about our budget, national finances and tax policies, and investment in critical infrastructure maintenance and improvements. Our nation's transportation system plays a significant role in our economy and quality of life in our communities. I understand the importance of maintaining and improving highways, roads, bridges, and transit, as well as other types of infrastructure, and I will continue to work in Congress to make responsible investments in these priorities.
Today's global economy is more competitive than ever before. In order for the US to maintain its competitive edge, we must fully fund infrastructure investments now. Transportation is an issue that I believe both sides of the aisle can agree on and I look forward to working with my colleagues to fund a reliable, 21st century transportation system that will support economic growth in Washington state and throughout our nation.