By Rob Talley : motorists – excerpt
Editor’s Note: The Washington Report is a regular feature of the NMA’s quarterly Driving Freedoms member magazine. Our representative in DC, Rob Talley, wrote the original version of this newsletter for the spring issue of the magazine before the pandemic halted its publication. So Rob recently updated his dispatch to include more recent developments on Capitol Hill,..The outlook in Washington for any issue, much less transportation policy, was completely upended with the outbreak of the coronavirus and associated US responses beginning in February…
Before the national crisis, House and Senate policymakers were working on transportation-related legislation that would have established funding levels for major highway and transportation safety programs for the next five years. In 2019, the Senate Committee working on the legislation passed a bipartisan proposal that authorized $287 billion in funding over five years.
In January, key Democratic leaders released a much more comprehensive infrastructure framework that would authorize $760 billion in funding. A significant portion, $329 billion, would go toward highways infrastructure according to discussions with staff working on the proposal. Another $105 billion would go toward improving public transit. Also included were non-traditional transportation proposals such as funding $34.3 billion worth of clean energy investment, and modernizing the electric grid to allow for more electric vehicle charging stations. House Republicans have not endorsed the proposal, expressing concerns about the expansive nature of the bill and objecting to some of the priorities.
While policy differences are an overarching problem in finding middle ground, the difference in funding levels is also a significant hurdle to passage. Even the more modest Senate proposed a $287 billion funding level that requires new funding mechanisms as the current gas tax fails to keep up with infrastructure funding needs. Before the pandemic, policy leaders were looking at options that include the vehicle miles traveled tax and even surcharges on electric vehicles to cover EV road use, but these have proven politically sticky…(more)
One assumes the financial priorities have shifted since the pandemic struck and the Federal government will take a break from non-essential funding until is known about the virus. The one thing we do seem to know is that we don’t know enough yet. We need to rely on our scientists and medical talents to help us through this crisis and we need to put a much stronger focus on educating and supporting science and medical staff to prepare for a less stressful future.