Last week we joined the U.S. Chamber, numerous state chambers, and business representatives in Washington, D.C. to emphasize to our congressional delegation the importance of providing long-term funding for American’s transportation infrastructure investment. Forty-two of 46 state chambers signed a letter to Congress to send a clear and unified message that business needs a long-term solution to the nation’s mobility issues.
Moving people and goods quickly and efficiently throughout our state and the country is critical to our competitive position in the global economy. The strength and advancement of our transportation network, previously one of best, is quickly slipping as other countries including China, India and much of Europe spend vastly more of their gross domestic product on infrastructure investment than the United States.
Recognizing the importance of this issue and after several years of short-term patches, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) into law in 2012. MAP-21 was helpful but all too brief. The most recent authorization that infused cash from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it afloat is set to expire at the end of May 2015. To keep current transportation programs operating, Congress and the President will need to pass a surface transportation reauthorization bill, either short-term or long-term before this date.
From the various member meetings that business had last week, it is clear that this is one of the issues with strong bipartisan support in Congress. But finding a long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund insolvency issues seems to be too big of a challenge to handle in the current congressional climate, especially with extreme budget deficits and a large contingent of the Republican majority frustrated with the Administration. The inability of Congress to find a solution makes it extremely difficult for the states to plan their transportation projects without knowing if or how they will be paid for. It seems likely that another short-term fix will occur right before the reauthorization deadline and states will have to continue to look at ways to find solutions to their own transportation needs.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, working with other business stakeholders, recently launched an effort branded Accelerate Arizona to provide the private-sector perspective and voice when it comes to expressing the importance of transportation infrastructure investment to the future economic growth of the state. Over the coming months we will be working with leaders at every level to talk about the issue and discuss various opportunities to develop solutions that build and grow our transportation system in a way that creates jobs and keeps our citizens safe and mobile.
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