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Sorting fact from fiction with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Thursday is poised to be a pivotal day for the roadway safety infrastructure industry with the House of Representatives expected to vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act set to expire at midnight.

Given the significance to its members, ATSSA’s Government Relations Team evaluated key concerns being raised about the IIJA’s provisions.

As background, the Senate passed the IIJA in bipartisan fashion on Aug. 10 with a 69-30 vote. Since then, the House of Representatives has been considering the measure.

ATSSA’s team analyzed the IIJA ahead of the Senate vote and provided a detailed breakdown of key aspects. That ATSSA analysis is available for review.

Below is a breakdown of issues commonly raised about the IIJA and creating confusion for some about whether to support the bill. ATSSA created this fact-versus-fiction document to address any misunderstandings.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)

Fact v. Fiction

IIJA is part of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending package.

FICTION. The bipartisan IIJA is distinctly separate from the bigger, partisan reconciliation package. The IIJA was crafted in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate, with 19 Republican senators joining all Senate Democrats in voting to pass it. While some of the IIJA policies were part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, it is stand-alone legislation that is in no way tied to the broad, social spending package being advocated for by Congressional Democrats. Because it is separate legislation, there will be two separate votes on these two separate bills.

IIJA is not entirely focused on infrastructure.

FICTION. The IIJA is wholly focused on infrastructure, unlike claims made by some in the media and by some in Congress. The bipartisan infrastructure package focuses investments on transportation infrastructure, drinking and wastewater infrastructure, broadband and energy infrastructure and weather resiliency infrastructure. This infrastructure package also includes a five-year reauthorization of federal-aid highway programs.

IIJA is the Green New Deal.

FICTION. The IIJA does include funding for infrastructure resiliency projects, which are critical investments that will save federal, state and local governments from having to spend limited resources to rebuild roads, bridges and tunnels from storm-related damage. But the IIJA does not include the broad, climate-related policies of the Green New Deal. In fact, one of the “yes” votes in the U.S. Senate for this package was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, certainly not someone who typically is associated with the Green New Deal. Additionally, some far-left members of Congress believe that the IIJA does not do nearly enough on climate change-related provisions. This push and pull is a hallmark of truly bipartisan legislation.

Passage of the IIJA will raise taxes.

FICTION. This package, unlike the broader reconciliation package, does not include tax increases. In fact, ATSSA, along with many other stakeholders, would have liked to have seen an increase to the gas and diesel user fees to pay for the roads and bridges portion of the package, but those increases were not included either. The cost of the package is offset with:

  • Current excise taxes that flow into the Highway Trust Fund
  • Repurposing of unspent COVID-19 relief funds
  • Sale of federal assets
  • Economic expansion
  • General Fund transfer into the Highway Trust Fund
  • Reporting requirements on brokers of cryptocurrency
  • Extension of customs fees
  • Sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
  • Delaying the Medicare Part D rebate rule

Congress can just pass an extension of the FAST Act without any repercussions.

FICTION. The current one-year extension of the FAST Act expires at midnight on Sept. 30. Without Congressional action on the IIJA (which includes a five-year reauthorization of the federal-aid highway programs), Congress would have to immediately pivot to some sort of extension of the FAST Act programs. Simply passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past Sept. 30 would not be sufficient to avoid a shutdown of the federal-aid highway program. For states to be reimbursed from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for federal-aid highway projects, the authority to spend money from the HTF must also be reauthorized. Therefore, in addition to a CR, Congress must reauthorize the federal-aid highway program and the ability to spend from the HTF or provide some kind of extension of the programs and spending authority. Some in Congress have stated that simply passing a CR with no federal-aid highway program extension is sufficient to keep the programs moving forward. That is factually inaccurate.

IIJA includes historic levels of roadway safety funding.

FACT. The IIJA includes more than $22 billion over five years for roadway safety projects. This is a massive increase over current spending on projects that will save lives on U.S. roadways in every Congressional district and will be a significant economic boon to the roadway safety infrastructure industry and communities across the country. Roadway safety investments in the IIJA include:

  • $16.8 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) (compared to $13 billion currently)
  • $5 billion for a new Safe Roads for All program, focusing on state and local vision zero projects
  • $300 million for rural road safety countermeasures related to roadway departures
  • $350 million for wildlife crash mitigation projects
  • $120 million for tribal road safety infrastructure projects 
  • $25 million for pedestrian security

 

Summary

The IIJA is a good, bipartisan, infrastructure-focused package that will focus on reducing roadway fatalities and serious injuries. The IIJA is delinked from the broad spending package and was already passed by the Senate. Members of Congress and members of the media who say otherwise are not being factual.

 

 

 

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