Continued from previous pageHe said he will push for passage this Congress of similar legislation he introduced last Congress that would have authorized spending directly from the HMTF without a formal appropriation.
The Trump administration’s federal budget for fiscal year 2019, released Sept. 30, 2018, estimated the HMTF balance as $9.4 billion and estimates the balance will rise to $9.9 billion by Sept. 30, 2019.
During a U.S. Chamber of Commerce infrastructure summit on Tuesday, DeFazio indicated he’s more optimistic his legislation will pass the House this time around, after the departure of former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who blocked DeFazio’s recent HMTF legislation.
DeFazio noted that 59 of the United States’ largest harbors are at 40 percent of authorized depths and capacity, with jetties crumbling, leaving U.S. ports unprepared for bigger ships expected to dock in future years.
“We’ll be getting the leftover tramp steamers pretty soon if we don’t make the investments we need in our harbors because the big ships won’t be able to navigate here,” he said.
Contributing to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure is the fact that the federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, even though about three dozen states have raised their gas tax, DeFazio noted.
DeFazio mentioned his proposal last year to raise gas taxes, which would have capped increases at 1.5 cents yearly, and he noted that a 2-cent-per-year raise could allow the tranching of enough bonds over 13 years to dedicate $600 billion of new investment toward infrastructure.
Broad legislation to update the nation’s infrastructure “has got to happen, and it’s a bipartisan issue,” DeFazio said. “People say, ‘Well aren’t you concerned you’ll give the president a victory?’ I say, ‘No, I’m not going to give him a victory.’ I say, ‘This is for all Americans — Republican, Democrat, independent. It’s for the future of the country, and he can’t claim all the credit since [Republicans] had total control for two years and did nothing.”