Policy Brief

Support County Priorities in Any New Federal Infrastructure Package

ACTION NEEDED

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

BACKGROUND

Counties play a central role in the nation’s transportation system. We own 46 percent of all public roads and build and maintain 38 percent of the nation’s bridge inventory, 78 percent of all public transit agencies and 34 percent of airports that connect residents, communities and businesses.

In February 2018, President Trump introduced his infrastructure plan, which totaled $1.5 trillion in new spending and financing for infrastructure projects across the country. Since the introduction of the infrastructure plan, the administration has continued to advocate for infrastructure policy designed to create, improve, renovate and repair our nation’s aging infrastructure.

Any new infrastructure package, if realized, could impact counties’ ability to prioritize and advocate for specific projects. 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, the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan is expected to focus on actual project conception and construction, as well as reducing regulatory barriers to development. The administration has expressed its intent to work with Congress as members introduce infrastructure-related legislation.

NACo believes that counties should be recognized as major owners of infrastructure in any future federal infrastructure package. Furthermore, federal funding levels and local authority should adequately reflect the county role in the nation’s transportation system. Counties believe 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. Specifically, counties support the following:

  • New, dedicated federal funding must be part of any new infrastructure package: While counties support public-private partnerships (P3’s) for project development, it is important that any future infrastructure package provide funding to those parts of the country where private investment is not accessible. Any new federal infrastructure package should include a robust rural infrastructure component and a sufficient funding match.
  • Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds: Tax-exempt municipal bonds are a critical tool for counties to facilitate the budgeting and financing of long-range investments in infrastructure and facilities necessary to meet public demand. Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds: Tax-exempt municipal bonds are a critical tool for counties to facilitate the budgeting and financing of long-range investments in infrastructure and facilities necessary to meet public demand. Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds: Tax-exempt municipal bonds are a critical tool for counties to facilitate the budgeting and financing of long-range investments in infrastructure and facilities necessary to meet public demand. Without the tax exemption, counties would pay more to raise capital, resulting in reduced spending on roads and bridges, decreased economic development, higher taxes or higher user fees. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L.115-97), signed into law in 2017, fully retained the tax-exempt status of all municipal bonds, and counties support the continued preservation of the tax-exempt status for these bonds.
  • Promoting long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund: 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 objective, including increased user fees for infrastructure.
  • Providing an environment for innovative financing: Counties support 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: Counties support streamlining of the federal permitting process, which can help reduce project delays resulting from duplicative reviews and procedures.

Key Talking points

NACo believes that counties should be recognized as major owners of transportation infrastructure in any potential package presented by the administration. Any new infrastructure legislation or administrative action should accomplish the following goals:

  • Allocate funding for locally owned infrastructure.
  • Preserve the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds.
  • Streamline the federal permit process.
  • Implement policies to promote innovative financing.
  • Ensure the long-term certainty and solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

About Sofia Ferber (Full Bio)

Health Associate

Sofia joined NACo in 2018 from the Office of Congressman Delaney (MD-06) working on constituent services and policy related work. While on the Hill she was involved in the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (CHSA) and the Women’s Congressional Staff Association (WCSA).