Chairman Shuster Releases Infrastructure Proposal
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has released a legislative discussion draft on Infrastructure. The draft is not a bill, but rather principles and proposals Chairman Shuster believes should be part of a bipartisan infrastructure package.
The proposal focuses primarily on the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and making it solvent, at least for a few more years. Doing so would allow Congress and the Administration additional time to enact an infrastructure package.
Chairman Shuster proposes increasing the gas tax by 15-cents over three years, and then would eliminate the gas tax by 2028. The Chairman’s proposal also calls for establishing a Highway Trust Fund Commission to come up with recommendations for achieving long-term funding solutions. The Commission would be required to submit a report to Congress by January 15, 2021. Included within the proposal is a voluntary pilot program to determine the feasibility of a per-mile user fee to ultimately replace current user fees on gasoline and diesel. Finally, to allow for the HTF Commission and Congress to have time to act, the draft calls for extending the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Public Law 114-94) by one year to September 30, 2021.
Additionally, the package includes language that would help communities deal with water resources projects related to compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA). The discussion draft contains text that would:
Reauthorize the Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (WIFIA) program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through 2024;
Authorize WIFIA funding at $50 million annually through 2024;
Reduce the number of credit agency reviews on WIFIA project applications from two to one;
Add language that would make it easier for State Infrastructure Financing Authorities to access WIFIA funds; and
Allow applicants to use WIFIA funds to finance 80% of eligible project costs, rather than the current 49%.
The draft also proposes authorizing $25 million annually through 2023 for technical assistance to rural and small communities trying to meet compliance standards under the CWA, as well as $200 million through 2023 for nonpoint source management programs. Most importantly, it would authorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program at EPA at $3 billion through 2023, more than double current funding.
An additional focus of the Chairman’s discussion draft is on accelerating project delivery through “One Federal Decision”, allowing categorical exclusions for a project under one modal administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation, rather than multiple modal administrations, proposing a pilot program for allowing innovative approaches in the environmental review process while providing environmental protection, and reforming Section 401 under the CWA.
By releasing the discussion draft, Chairman Shuster is hoping to spark discussion on infrastructure, before his term ends in January 2019 and he retires from Congress.
To view the full discussion draft, click here.