Fleet Management

Leaked Infrastructure Plan: No Fuel Tax Hike, but Tolling Interstates OK

January 22, 2018

By David Cullen

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Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation
Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation

UPDATED A draft of the Trump Administration’s long-promised infrastructure plan, obtained and published on Jan. 22, is arguably most compelling for what it leaves out: Any talk of boosting federal fuel taxes.

Axios.com, which broke the story, reported this to be White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters’ comment on the draft: “We are not going to comment on the contents of a leaked document but look forward to presenting our plan in the near future.” 

Despite sustained lobbying by the influential American Trucking Associations (last year ATA even got face time with President Trump) as well as by the powerhouse United States Chamber of Commerce to substantially raise the gas tax (and index it for inflation going forward)-- not to mention the White House previously indicating such a hike was on the table-- the document makes no mention of that tax.

The undated six-page document, titled “Funding Principles” for an “Infrastructure Incentives Initiative,” also does not give an actual dollar figure for the plan aimed at improving the nation’s transportation, broadband, water, and power infrastructure.

In general terms, per Politico.com, the draft calls for spending to be broken down thusly: “Infrastructure incentives initiative” (50%); “transformative projects” (10%); rural infrastructure (25%); federal credit programs (7%), and federal capital financing fund (5%).

Two specific points made about transportation funding in the document are not going over well with some highway stakeholder groups:

  • That states be allowed “flexibility to toll on interstates and reinvest toll revenues in infrastructure” and to “reconcile the grandfathered restrictions on use of highway toll revenues with current law.”
  • That states should be provided the “flexibility to commercialize interstate rest areas.”

“The leaked Trump infrastructure plan is a complete reversal of President Trump’s commitment to putting America First,” said Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates spokesperson Stephanie Kane in a statement. “Although then-candidate Trump campaigned against lining the pockets of Wall Street and promised to be the voice for the working class, this plan does the opposite. President Trump is choosing Wall Street over Main Street. It would take money from hardworking Americans and give huge profits to toll road investors – many of which are foreign companies.

Kane said that allowing tolling and reconciling the grandfathered restrictions “translates to a complete reversal of the current federal ban on tolling existing interstates. Tolls are simply a new tax. They are wildly inefficient, sacrificing money that could go toward construction instead going to corporate profits and administrative costs. In addition to the diversion onto secondary roads which causes congestion and public safety issues, tolls will do unimaginable harm to businesses, as shipping and manufacturing prices skyrocket to account for these new costs.”

She added that the draft plan could result in “a patchwork of tolls that span coast to coast… There is a real opportunity for a long-term solution to our transportation infrastructure needs, but it shouldn’t include tolling our interstates.”

According to American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear, the leading truck lobby is also concerned about the talk of tolls. “As we’ve said before, we have serious concerns about the unintended consequences of tolls, including their inefficiency, disruption to traffic flows, diversion to secondary roads and negative impact on local economies, to name a few,” he said in a statement to HDT. 

Noting that ATA “commends President Trump for addressing our nation’s infrastructure crisis and making it a top priority of his presidency,” Spear stated that “This challenge requires a sustainable, long-term funding solution, which is why American Trucking Associations is proposing the Build America Fund. This plan would generate $340 billion in revenue over the next decade to invest in our deteriorating roads and bridges.

“We look forward to working with the Congress and the Administration on a legislative package that can deliver the solution our country needs and deserves,” he added.

Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO, which represents truck stop operators, said that the lobby isextremely disappointed at the prospect that the [Trump] Administration might renew its call for liberalizing tolling policy and commercializing rest areas.”

Mullings said “it is imperative that the federal government maintain its strong national role in infrastructure development, and not relinquish its responsibility to the states or the private sector. We urge the Administration to refrain from widespread tolling of America’s infrastructure and the commercialization of interstate rest areas.

“It has been nearly a quarter of a century since we increased the federal investment in our nation’s infrastructure, even though all experts agree that this type of government spending saves lives, saves dollars and boosts our nation's productivity,” she continued. “As America’s aging roads and bridges continue to feel the strain, it is time for our leaders in Washington, D.C., to do the right thing by raising the nation’s motor fuels taxes.”

Mullings added that NATSO wants “sustainable solutions to funding infrastructure that don’t harm American businesses and highway users” and looks forward to working with the Administration “to find the best path forward.”

Updated with comments from ATA on 01/23/2018 at 12:10 pm EST.

Comments

  1. 1. Pat oravetz [ January 23, 2018 @ 05:59AM ]

    How many more projects.can the trucks support? Eld, toll the interstate , buy trumps crack.

  2. 2. MIchael Galorath [ January 23, 2018 @ 06:57AM ]

    Just read a story in my local paper. Refereed to Tesla charging stations. If you charge your car at night it cost $1.00 to charge the car and travel 50 miles. This is where we are getting lost in our way. We should at least figure out how to spread the wealth electric cars using roads

  3. 3. mc [ January 23, 2018 @ 08:27AM ]

    It's time to rethink our so-called "defense" budget and bring some of that money back home. We spend more than the next 7 countries COMBINED and still it's not enough? We could cut our defense budget in half and still be spending twice as much as the next highest country on the list. We spend so much and get so little in return. We need to reevaluate our foreign policy priorities, and concentrate on those which we absolutely cannot abandon. Military equipment contracts need to be renegotiated to eliminate the bloat and waste and the savings put to better use (like infrastructure, education and healthcare). We spend the most in the world on defense, yet our service men and women are under-supplied and our vets under-cared for...yeah, we have a spending problem.

    On another note, tolling the highways may be in our future whether we like it or not. I'm not an advocate, but with the rise of hybrids and plug-in electrics, eventually fuel useage will drop to where taxing it would be pointless. Another means of revenue would need to be created to pay for upkeep of our roads and bridges and at the moment, tolling roads seems to be the only idea on the table. Hopefully, something better comes along...

  4. 4. gerald [ January 23, 2018 @ 09:12AM ]

    That is always the answer - raise taxes on people. Who does this impact the most - the poorest people in our country.

    The recent gov't shutdown that lasted all of three days - how many people in government are non essential? There is a huge part of our spending problem.

    The vehicles that use the roads should pay the tax to update the roads. This tax will be passed onto consumers anyway, We don't live in a vacuum. You raise people's taxes and they figure out a way to change their behavior to avoid the tax.

    Drain the swamp.

  5. 5. Terry [ January 23, 2018 @ 10:58AM ]

    Just raise the fed gas and fuel tax so everybody that uses the roads including drug users and trafficers unemployed welfare people and all elligals get to pay there share instead of just the people that make a living on the road we can pass fuel charges on not so easy to pass on toll tickets + all the time stopping on eletric log s thats enough

  6. 6. J. Hubert [ January 23, 2018 @ 11:23AM ]

    The way I look at this situation is you have two choices,1 - Toll the roads so that everyone that uses the roads helps pay for the upkeep. or 2.- Pay a use fee when you register your truck and car using the miles you have traveled on roadways. If we use them we have to pay for them.

  7. 7. Richard Davis [ January 23, 2018 @ 02:39PM ]

    Thanks a lot, Trump. No more fuel taxes but you are going to put tolls on the roads we have already paid for with our taxes. I thought I had read something years ago that said the Government couldn't put a toll on a road that was paid for with fuel taxes. Does this mean they will take the taxes off of gas/fuel when they put tolls on the roads, that way we won't be doubled tax? I bet that won't happen, they will just add more fuel tax also.

  8. 8. Richard Davis [ January 27, 2018 @ 09:15AM ]

    Well, J.Hubert, you must not be in the trucking business or you are a company driver. Trucks do pay a user fee a 550.00 fee each yr. before you can get your tags. Trucks also pay an ad valorem tax,{ even though they don't own property } in some states. Trucks do pay road taxes in a few states, on the mileage, they run through that state. That's on top of the fuel tax trucks pay each state they run through. As far as I know, cars don't pay any of those taxes on the miles they run. Cars do have a wheel-tax in a lot of counties. Point is, TRUCKS have a lot of taxes on them already, evidently, a lot of people don't know about, like yourself. There are Fed fuel taxes, State fuel taxes. It will never be enough, the way Government wastes money.

 

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