Statements and Speeches

Hearing Statement: "The Need to Invest in America's Infrastructure and Preserve Federal Transportation Funding"

United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Sep 25 2013

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) attended the hearing, “The Need to Invest in America’s Infrastructure and Preserve Federal Transportation Funding.” For more information on the hearing or to watch a webcast of the hearing, please click here.  A copy of Sen. Carper’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“The problem we are focusing on today is one that we’ve seen coming for years. Several of our witnesses even served on a Commission that Congress created in 2005 to find solutions to this very problem.

“After 3 years and countless hearings, that Commission brought us more than twenty-five ideas for solving this issue, but since they delivered their report, we’ve largely ignored it.

“Instead, by keeping the Highway Trust Fund afloat with transfers from the General Fund, we’ve added more than $53 billion in debt since 2008.

“Now we’re faced with a stark decision: continue transferring money into the Highway Trust Fund or dramatically scale back badly needed investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

“We shouldn’t accept either of these options.

“President Reagan used to tell us that “there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.” I would add that there are also simple truths.  The truth of the matter is that the time has come when we need to summon the courage to do what we know to be right.

“Over the past year, because it was the right thing to do, Republicans and Democrats in states around the U.S. have found the courage to begin to take bold action and begin investing anew in their transportation systems. 

“Though I’m sure it wasn’t easy, eleven states have found the will to raise their motor fuel taxes. Another 16 states have adopted policies that automatically increase rates each year to keep pace with inflation.

“Wyoming, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Massachusetts: the states on this list are red and blue, big and small, urban and rural, and represent a cross-section of America.

“As different as they are, what these state have in common is elected officials who recognize the fact that investing in a robust transportation network is a smart pro-growth strategy.

“Just like any business, we need to make needed investments in order to grow. That’s why I led the fight to raise the gas tax as governor of Delaware.

“It’s why President Reagan signed a gas tax increase into law in 1982, and President Clinton approved one in 1993.

“And it’s why my friend George Voinovich I called for an increase in the gas tax as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan in 2010.

“Today, I’d like to once again offer this proposal: gradually increase federal motor fuels taxes by 15 cents.  Not all at once, but over a period of several years, and then index the rate to inflation.

“This proposal is more easily said than done, but it has the virtue of being straightforward, and it will generate the funds that are needed to help transform our transportation network into one that can again be the envy of much of the rest of the world.   

“Since the gas tax is already in place, it can be ramped up quickly enough to address the imminent fall-off in revenue in 2015.

“My proposal would return the Highway Trust Fund to solvency and provide the revenue we need to invest in a growing economy, rather than growing the deficit.

“The administrative costs of the gas tax are less than 1 percent, allowing us to direct almost all of the revenues raised into high priority projects around the country.

“With MAP-21, we took steps toward making our transportation programs more efficient, requiring performance, and deploying new tools and technology to get better results for less money.  In doing so, we’ve gone a long way to ensuring that we get a better bang for every buck we invest in our roads, highways, bridges and transit systems. 

“It’s imperative that we build on these reforms when we take up the next major transportation in little more than a year.

“But none of that progress will matter if we don’t do what’s right just because it’s hard.  

“If others have better solutions, I urge you to put them on the table and do so now.  This is not something that we can wait until the last minute to decide. We need to get started now.

“Let me say to our chair and ranking member that I’m delighted that you are holding this hearing today.  I hope that it will serve as a call to action, because action – along with political courage – is what is needed today.”