WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 20, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Many Nebraskans are hitting the road for vacations and family gatherings during the dog days of summer. Earlier this month, AAA estimated nearly 42 million Americans would travel over the Fourth of July weekend, with approximately 85 percent driving to their destinations.
Nebraska has more than 96,000 miles of public roads and 3,500 bridges. When I have the opportunity to travel around the 67,000 square miles of the Third District, I naturally spend a lot of time in the car. Whether commuting for work or driving for leisure, we all depend on a reliable highway system to get us where we need to go.
As our country’s infrastructure ages, many highways, roads, and bridges are in need of significant repairs. Maintaining our infrastructure is an important responsibility of government, and there is always more work to be done. Unfortunately, the current Highway Trust Fund authorization is scheduled to expire on July 31.
Though the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee determines how highway funds are spent, the House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, has jurisdiction over the revenue collected for and the disbursement of money from the Highway Trust Fund. This puts our Committee at the helm of finding ways to sustainably fund our country’s infrastructure.
Funding is not the only problem we face in improving our highway system. Despite many technological advances, it takes as long to build a road today as it did 50 years ago. The combination of an overly bureaucratic process and expanding red tape holds up approvals and drags out construction timelines. While we work toward responsible funding solutions, we must also focus on rolling back regulations.
Our first step in addressing our country’s infrastructure challenges is ensuring projects already underway are not forced to a halt due to the fast-approaching July 31 funding deadline. To prevent this, the House passed Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s H.R. 3038 this week to extend the authorization for highway programs through the end of the year. We all share the goal of finding a long-term solution, but this bill provides the time and short-term funding needed to ensure we can make sound funding decisions which will not add to our national debt.
The Highway Trust Fund is currently funded by the federal gas tax, but this system is unsustainable. Increasing the gas tax makes little sense given continued efforts to decrease fuel use and increase efficiency. Extensive reforms of our outdated tax code are necessary to provide a reliable funding stream for our country’s infrastructure projects.
Though I support a comprehensive overhaul of our tax code, it is difficult to advance comprehensive tax reform under the current administration. However, it would be irresponsible for us to not fix what we can when situations like this arise while ensuring a complete overhaul of the tax code remains on the table.
The legislation passed by the House this week will allow us to continue our work on tax reform while seeking a multi-year highway funding plan. I am pleased the House took action to prevent the lapse of ongoing infrastructure projects and hope the Senate will join us in advancing this short-term bill to pave the way for a long-term highway funding solution.