WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Congress to move quickly to pass a new transportation bill last night in his address to the nation. His comments concerning the road bill came in the element of much needed jobs to help spark an improvement in the American economy further bolstered by tax reform. The new bill would bring thousands of jobs all around the country, not to mention helping our current transportation issues.
“Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad,” President Obama stated. “Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.”
This road bill could spark some much needed improvements in our nation’s highways. Have you noticed the roads lately? Wondering why our local roads haven’t been paved? The economy and cuts have hurt us all. Major cities need improvements to their transportation infrastructure immediately, most of us truck drivers already see this on a daily basis.
70 percent of our goods are shipped by roads. Obama stated that America should take the money saved by tax reform to create jobs rebuilding roads, upgrading ports and unclogging commutes because “in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer,” he said. “But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transit Committee, has already held hearings about what should be in the new road bill, which would succeed MAP-21, the current funding bill that is set to expire Sept. 30. Shuster swore to have a new transportation bill written and in place by the time the current bill would expire. “I hope is to get reauthorization done on time,” Shuster said during his opening remarks Jan. 14 as the panel held its first hearing toward a new bill.
The legislation previous to MAP-21, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), was signed into law Aug. 10, 2005, and was set to expire Sept. 30, 2009. But Congress could never come to terms on successor legislation and was forced to extend SAFETEA-LU 10 times before finally passing MAP-21.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised Obama’s speech, calling it “a bold vision for increasing opportunity for all Americans. I was especially glad to hear the President call on Congress to finish a much-needed transportation bill this summer,” he said, “and the proposal to fund that bill through corporate tax reform can and should be done on a bipartisan basis.”
As usual, the president’s comments were questioned as some disapprove. The American Trucking Association (ATA) in a reaction to the address said it was “disappointed” the president didn’t include more specifics as to how “infrastructure” would be completely funded. “While we appreciate President Obama making reference to the need for infrastructure investment, we remain disappointed in the continued lack of specificity when he discusses funding,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves admitted, “While it is critically important to the nation that Congress and the administration come together on a multiyear highway bill this year, we believe that until the administration puts forward a serious, user-based funding proposal we will risk going over the Highway Trust Fund ‘fiscal cliff’ in the near term and be woefully underfunded to meet the longer term needs of the nation.”
Just like it has been for years now, we again see a margin of difference. Why we can’t come to an agreement is beyond me. Any trucker that’s been on the road and traveling over the last year or two knows that this bill needs passed. We caught up with Aaron Ellis, a 23 year veteran truck driver. Ellis was concerned and gave us a statement “The roads are terrible. I travel through Memphis, Oklahoma City, all over Interstate 40 east to west. I’ve seen it for the last few years and it’s only getting worse. I’ve had more blow outs this year then any of my previous 23 years. People don’t realize that these cost trickle down into the economy, I hope something gets done soon.”
I expect the bill will be ready go by September but something needs to be done now. This can create a lot of jobs all around the country. Truck drivers are going to save money and time. We’ll be able to keep 70 percent of the nation’s shipments running efficient and it’s a win-win for everyone. My only concern as the ATA mentioned is funding. Who’s going to pay for it all? Obama didn’t go into details about funding, we can only hope that it’s not us that has to pay.