NTF Issue Paper: cong42.doc. 6-17.

NE Sen. Deb Fischer, as chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation, has introduced S. 271, a bill to fund new infrastructure projects across the U.S., including highways and airports. Known as the Build USA Infrastructure Act, it would handle future infrastructure funding shortfalls because of less revenue raised by the federal gas tax.

Sen. Fischer was very instrumental as a state senator to find innovative means to pay for needed highway construction. Because of her Build NE legislation, NE begins and finishes highway projects at a quicker rate. Her bill currently awaits advancement from the Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee.

Her proposal would accelerate road, bridge, and highway construction and provide a stable revenue source. Projects usually over budget and behind schedule would disappear. States like NE would gain more flexibility to overcome funding gaps and federal regulation burdens that have delayed critical construction projects. By 2026, the Highway Trust Fund will face a shortfall of about $107 billion (Congressional Budget Office, March 16, 2017). Her bill would redirect $21.4 billion yearly in Customs and Border Patrol revenues like tariffs, duties, and fees collected on freight and passengers arriving by air, land, or sea for 5 years following the expiration of the current highway legislation. No increase in fees or taxes! To accelerate state projects, S. 271 establishes voluntary state remittance agreements with the Federal Highway Administration, whereby states in 3-yr. agreements can exchange 10% of their fed highway dollars for greater control over specific aspects of federal regulatory approval for highway projects. These returned funds would deposit in the federal highway fund. NE, like other states, faces great challenges in beginning and finishing infrastructure projects stemming from excessive federal procedural costs and calendar delays. Major federal-aid highway projects can stretch 14 years from beginning to finish (Congressional Research Service, 2017). States deserve more autonomy in this area. In this arrangement, states would gain control over fed approval for the design, right of way acquisition, environmental permits and approvals, and construction engineering aspects of highway projects. States also in charge of project agreement modifications and consultant services, all these privileges not subject to judicial review. States must use the funds to construct core infrastructure projects in accordance with the agreement. Instead of passing a huge omnibus bill to fund all of these infrastructure projects nationally, the Fischer bill smartly would fund specifically each project of the infrastructure individually.

This plan would assist the Trump Presidency proposal to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure renewal within 10 years. The President cited a horribly crumbling infrastructure that requires replacement by new highways, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, airports, seaports, and railways across the nation. He proposed this spending, relying mainly on private investors. However, noting the long list of needed projects, S. 271 would greatly assist his plan and accelerate it.

Nebraska taxpayers pay a great amount of taxes to our federal government to fund our national expenditures, but rarely do we hear or have a voice in how Washington, D.C. spends our dollars. S. 271 offers our state an opportunity to decide how and where we spend some of these monies. Contact Sen. Ben Sasse today to co-sponsor and support S. 271 through the Senate.

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