Infrastructure Bill…maybe?

Are our federal legislators about to get busy addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs? Maybe.

First, why is infrastructure legislation important to the bus and motorcoach industry? Basically, the bus and motorcoach industry needs roads, highways, bridges and tunnels to conduct our business. And we need that infrastructure to be in good repair and uncongested. Secondly, it is most likely any infrastructure bill will contain policy directives to transportation agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that result in funding and regulations that will affect the industry.

Beyond transportation, infrastructure includes water supply, sewers, electrical grids, and telecommunications including Internet connectivity. It is essential to our daily lives and future economic growth.

Infrastructure is also expensive, requiring funding from not only the federal government but state governments and local communities as well.

In an era of hyper-partisan politics in Washington, D.C., and an increasingly distracted president, infrastructure may be an area of bipartisanship.

U.S House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has previously commented: “The New Direction Congress stands ready to work in a bipartisan manner to find green solutions, such as mass transit, and modern solutions, such as expanding broadband access across the America, that strengthen the infrastructure that is the backbone of our economy and our country.”

After President Trump’s most recent State of the Union address in which he brought up infrastructure, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao commented afterward: “This president is a builder; he understands that building up our infrastructure is key to economic growth and improving the quality of life of all Americans. She further commented: “Thankfully, infrastructure is an issue that has potential for bipartisan consensus in Washington. Leaders in both parties recognize that infrastructure needs to be a priority.”

So, why don’t they just do it? As previously mentioned, infrastructure is expensive, and many of the sources of funding, such as the Highway Trust Fund, are simply inadequate. Addressing funding inevitably requires the discussion of raising taxes.

With 24-hour news cycles, politicians seem to be in an endless campaign mode. Few politicians want to run on the campaign slogans, “I raised your taxes,” or “I eliminated your fuel-tax exemption.”

In many ways, infrastructure is about anticipating the needs of tomorrow—the foundation that a modern economy’s future is built on. Politicians are already looking to the 2020 election. Most insiders seem to believe a bipartisan bill is possible if work begins in earnest in early 2019.

Unlike previous approaches to infrastructure, many agendas will reflect green, safety and quality of life as conditions for funding. These will prove contentious to say the least and likely leave little room for negotiations.

We are cautiously optimistic. 

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