On the heels of the leaked contents of President Trump’s infrastructure plan and the increase of his funding goals as mentioned in his State of the Union address, the full reveal of the details has raised the ire of trucking and highway control groups alike. While there are several areas of contention, by far the largest one is centered on how the plan will be funded. As of this writing, President Trump noted that the federal government plans to invest just $200 billion total across all aspects of the plan — not just those earmarked for highways. It is the president’s contention that this infusion of funds will be enough to prompt another $1.3 trillion of spending at the state and local level with the goal of improving the country’s entire infrastructure system.
American Trucking Association Unhappy
While Chris Spear, President and CEO of the American Trucking Association (ATA) initially praised President Trump for leading the debate about the country’s infrastructure plan, he blasted its deficits. These include the fact that the plan’s lack of funding doesn’t support Trump’s campaign promises. Part of the funding for the plan is supposed to be generated from avenues like privatizing rest areas and implementing highway tolls. Spear pointed out that placing new tolls on existing interstates is an ineffective and wasteful strategy with as much as a third of the revenue funding the costs for overhead and administration instead of infrastructure.
Highway Trust Fund on Shaky Ground
The Highway Trust Fund is designed to be a source of monies earmarked to finance federal highway and mass transit spending. The proceeds from federal excise and fuel taxes were supposed to be used to replenish this fund. As Spear noted, President Trump’s current infrastructure proposal doesn’t address the ailing Highway Trust Fund, putting it in imminent danger of collapse.
Highway Group Issues Strong Words
The Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), Elaine Nessle, agreed with Spear’s stance and issued a strong rebuke regarding Trump’s plan to rely on states and localities to fill in the infrastructure funding gaps. As she noted, more than 77 percent of the country’s freight is moved between states. This fact means that robust funding for a goods movement strategy coordinated by the federal government is required. Her organization urged President Trump to increase the federal government’s investment in freight infrastructure to $2 billion more than the current levels.
In addition to failing to fully fund the country’s infrastructure requirements at the federal level, President Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2019 calls for the elimination of programs that support the movement of goods. The federal government needs to hear from those in the trucking industry, as well as throughout the country as a whole, who are affected by their actions.