Policy Brief

Support County Priorities in Any New Infrastructure Package

ACTION NEEDED:

Urge your members of Congress to support county transportation and infrastructure priorities in any new infrastructure bill presented by Congress in the 115th Congress.

BACKGROUND:

Counties play a critical role in the nation’s transportation system, owning 46 percent of all public roads (compared to the 32 percent of public roads owned by cities and townships, 19 percent by states, and 3 percent by the federal government) and 38 percent of the nation’s bridge inventory, and are involved with a third of the nation’s transit systems and airports that connect residents, communities and businesses.

In November of 2016, then President-elect Trump announced his intent to introduce an up to $1 trillion infrastructure package designed to create, improve, renovate and repair our nation’s aging infrastructure. This package, if realized, could affect counties’ ability to prioritize and advocate for specific projects. In February 2018, President Trump introduced his plan, which totaled $1.5 trillion.

While past surface transportation authorizations such as MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141) and the FAST Act (P.L. 114–94) focused on setting policy, this potential infrastructure plan will likely focus on actual project conception and construction. The administration has expressed its intent to work with Congress as they craft legislation, realizing the White House Plan could be altered by Congress.

NACo believes that counties should be recognized as major owners of transportation infrastructure in any potential package presented by the administration. Furthermore, federal funding levels and local authority should adequately reflect the county role in the nation’s transportation system. NACo believes that a user-pay approach should continue to be the cornerstone of federal transportation funding and that federal policy should provide counties the flexibility to use additional financing tools. Such policies include:

  • New, dedicated federal funding must be part of any new infrastructure package: While NACo supports public-private partnerships (P3’s) for project development, it is important that any infrastructure package provide funding to those parts of the country where private investment is not appropriate. A robust rural infrastructure plan must be part of any new legislation with the necessary funds to address their unique needs.
  • Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds: Though legislated as part of the tax code through the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, tax-exempt bonds are a critical tool for counties that facilitates the budgeting and financing of long-range investments in the infrastructure and facilities necessary to meet public demand. Without the tax-exemption, counties would pay more to raise capital, a cost that would ultimately be borne by the taxpayers through means such as reduced spending on the roads and bridges that counties are responsible for, decreased economic development, higher taxes or higher user fees.
  • Promote long-term solvency of the highway trust fund: In order to maintain a robust infrastructure network, the Highway Trust Fund must remain solvent. NACo advocates for an “all tools in the toolbox” approach to accomplishing this, including increased usage of user-fees for infrastructure.
  • Providing an environment for innovative financing: NACo supports innovative financing mechanisms including, but not limited to, qualified tax credit bonds; infrastructure banks; the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA); and public-private partnerships that would allow local governments and transportation authorities, such as counties, to leverage federal financing for capital projects.
  • Streamlining of the federal permit process: NACo supports a streamlining of the federal permitting process, which can help reduce project delays resulting from duplicative reviews and proecedures.

KEY TALKING POINTS:

  • NACo believes that counties should be recognized as major owners of transportation infrastructure in any potential package presented by the administration. Key funding and financing measures must include all of the following:
    • Dedicated Funding for locally owned infrastructure.
    • Preservation of Tax-Exempt Status of Municipal Bonds.
    • Streamlining of the federal permit process.
    • Policies to Provide an Environment for Innovative Financing.
    • Bringing long-term certainty and solvency to the federal Highway Trust Fund

For further information, contact: Kevan Stone at 202.942.4217 or kstone@naco.org

 

About Kevan Stone (Full Bio)

Associate Legislative Director – Transportation

Kevan Stone serves as NACo's Associate Legislative Director for Transportation and Infrastructure. He is responsible for all policy development and advocacy pertaining to the county role in ownership and maintenance of roads, bridges, airports and other important infrastructure.