Nation’s newest debts present obstacle for infrastructure reform

By |  March 5, 2018

Johnson

Between the tax reform bill and the latest budget deal, the United States recently incurred $3 trillion in new debt for the coming years.

Consider, too, that all of that debt was incurred in a matter of six weeks or so.

And, as Mike Johnson of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) points out, not a cent of those dollars will be spent on infrastructure.

“Everyone here is glad to see tax reform, but we incurred $1.5 trillion of new debt over the next 10 years [because of it],” says Johnson, president and CEO of NSSGA who addressed the opening general session of the association’s convention in Houston.

Johnson remains optimistic about the possibility of passing a major infrastructure bill this year in part because of the president’s background. But Johnson realizes NSSGA and other surface transportation infrastructure advocates have their work cut out for them because of recent developments on Capitol Hill.

“We have a president who understands the way to get the economy growing, the nation moving and to create jobs is to build,” he says. “When we are building as a country those are our best times.”

An increase to the federal gas tax, as Johnson recently discussed at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, remains an obvious solution on infrastructure.

“We’ve got to raise the most conservative solution to infrastructure: the user fee,” Johnson says. “Those who use more pay more.”

Still, there are a number of hurdles in place that could stall efforts to pass a major infrastructure bill this year. November’s midterm elections, which Johnson touched on at the NSSGA Annual Convention, are just one of those hurdles.

“[Congressmen] are scared to death to take a vote that they think will hurt them,” Johnson says. “We’ve got to deliver a message to Congress to say: do your job and deliver real results for your constituents on this important issue.”

To keep the infrastructure issue top of mind, NSSGA launched a website for the construction materials industry that asks Congress to act now on infrastructure and fix the Highway Trust Fund. Check out the website at www.infrastructureforamerica.org.

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