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Graves: The Road to Infrastructure Legislation Is Through Partnership, Not Partisanship

Washington, D.C., February 3, 2020 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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The Road to Infrastructure Legislation Is Through Partnership, Not Partisanship
By Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Opinion Contributor

This week, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives both released infrastructure principles, a sign that Congress is willing to address an issue that Americans expect us to accomplish.

Infrastructure has been on and off the table several times in the last year, usually sidelined by political posturing or unrelated events that make bigger headlines.

But here’s the bottom line: infrastructure remains an issue on which Congress can get something done if we work together in a bipartisan manner on proposals that can legitimately attract broad support.

On the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where I serve as the Republican leader, we all know the recipe for legislative success is through partnership, not partisanship. Historically, our committee succeeds when both sides have a seat at the table in developing legislation. Committee Republicans stand ready to work with our Democratic colleagues to pass a major surface transportation reauthorization bill this year.

With the current surface transportation law, the FAST Act, expiring at the end of September, committee Republicans expect to play a constructive role in new legislation. Any serious effort must include our principles, which reflect a thoughtful approach to this process and not a “wish list” mentality. Here are six principles we will push for: 

Addressing the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund – This major infrastructure Trust Fund relies largely on the gas and diesel taxes many of us pay at the pump, but with increasing fuel efficiency and increasing use of electric and hybrid vehicles, those critical user fees are decreasing and the Trust Fund regularly teeters on the brink of insolvency. We need to fix this critical issue once and for all.

Incorporating innovative developments in technology to improve our infrastructure – Transportation efficiency, safety, the environment, and job creation all stand to benefit from federal policies that increasingly foster development and incorporation of innovative technologies in our infrastructure.

Streamlining the project delivery process to maximize available funding – It is a fact that time is money, so we should never stop searching for ways to speed up project review and delivery processes in ways that don’t harm the environment. Cutting red tape will save the taxpayers money and allow us to stretch our limited resources further. A longer process does not guarantee any more environmental protection, and inefficiencies in the process may end up doing more harm.

Addressing the infrastructure needs of America’s rural communities – 71 percent of U.S. public road lane-mileage is in rural America. Any increased investment in federal infrastructure funding must ensure that small and rural communities are getting a fair shake and are not being left behind in rebuilding our national transportation network.

Prioritizing core programs and functions of our existing federal surface transportation programs – Fixing and improving the nation’s core system of highways and bridges, and facilitating interstate commerce and the movement of freight and people, are critical to the safety and efficiency of the surface transportation network and should not be jeopardized. Every new program created by the government dilutes the essential functions of the core programs, and the very transportation system itself.

Ensuring state flexibility – Every state has its own unique infrastructure needs, and it knows them better than Washington bureaucrats. Top-down mandates frequently force a solution that that may work for one state but not another where it doesn’t make sense. States, in partnership with their local partners, know best how to prioritize and address their individual needs and must have the flexibility to do that.

Committee Republicans will not agree with all the infrastructure principles released by the House majority, and I don’t expect them to agree with all of ours. But any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must meet somewhere in the middle to build bipartisan consensus.

Partisan posturing on infrastructure will get us nowhere. On this committee, we all know the recipe for success in addressing America’s infrastructure needs is through partnership, so let’s get to work.

Graves represents Missouri’s 6th District and is ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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