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May 2015

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Pass the 'Grow America Act'

The Highway Trust Fund is how the federal government funds road, rail and port projects that, aside from connecting all parts of the country to the world, puts people to work and keeps America's economy humming. The $50 billion the fund provides each year is leveraged by cities and states to raise billions more to keep bridges from collapsing, trains from derailing and potholes filled and if Congress does not act, the fund will go broke May 31.

The problem is that the highway fund is filled only part way each year by the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax. Each year there is a $16 billion shortfall that creates uncertainty across the country, as state and local officials are never sure of federal funding. The gas tax hasn't changed in 22 years and has been falling short of what we spend, and more importantly, what we need to be spending for years.

So what happens when the money dries up? Our roads, rails, ports and waterways are like the circulatory system of the economy and the United States is not looking good. One in four of our bridges are deficient. Sixty-five percent of our roads are rated less than good by the Department of Transportation. Traffic jams are like blocked arteries and Americans waste 5.5 billion hours a year going nowhere. The American Society of Civil Engineers — think of them as the heart doctors for the American economy — gave the U.S. a D+ in their 2014 report card.

If you heard that from your doctor, you would quit smoking, eat better and get some exercise. You'd take action.

But what has the U.S. Congress done? Very little. Needed projects are going unfunded, states are postponing or canceling others, jobs are lost and lives are put at risk.

We can and we must do better than that.

President Obama has proposed the Grow America Act, a six-year, $478 billion bill that would go a long way toward fixing what can be fixed, replacing what can't and building what we need and don't have. The $176 billion increase in spending over the life of the bill isn't paid for with more debt or higher gas taxes, it's funded by a 14-percent tax on the $2 trillion American corporations have parked overseas.

It's smart tax reform married to the kind of investment our government should be making and it ends the uncertainty about the Highway Trust Fund that has stalled projects and killed jobs. Every member should contact their senators and representatives and ask them to support the plan.


Also: Hill: An Enduring Symbol Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer