Your Tax Dollars At WorkWritten By: Dale Leppo
Article Date: 04-03-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
AED's 2006 Government Affairs Committee
You've all seen the signs: "Your tax dollars at work." For our industry, they are important signs because they also mean "Your customers at work." That's part of the reason AED has Christian Klein and his staff represent our industry in Washington, D.C., but it's not the only reason.
At the AED Government Affairs Committee March 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C., we discussed several topics, and then went up to Capitol Hill to discuss our positions with our representatives and senators. These are the topics that caught my attention:
Here in beautiful Akron, Ohio, we recently went through a period of several weeks where our water was not fit to drink. It was a big deal in the papers, and they got it fixed, but we are not alone.
- Death tax repeal - There seems to be an understanding among our lawmakers that having a tax at death that drops to 0% in 2010 but then goes back up to 55% in 2011 makes it extremely difficult for business owners to plan for the continuation of their businesses. There are even some discussions about coming up with a long-term solution to this issue in 2006. Let's hope years of lobbying on this issue pays off.
- Fully funding the highway bill - One of the speakers said the Chinese government feels strongly that the U.S. transportation system is a distinct competitive advantage for the U.S. economy. And they plan to essentially duplicate our Interstate system during the next 15 years.
Despite the importance of our highway system, it is a yearly battle to fund highway construction. Why? It comes down to the perceived shortage of money for such efforts.
Last year Congress passed and the President signed SAFETEA-LU, a $286.4 billion highway bill that continues through 2009. For fiscal year 2007, the President's budget have allocated $39.1 billion for the federal highway program.
Although the highway infrastructure is financed through the collection of the federal gas tax and is, therefore, self-funding, there must still be an appropriation made of those dollars each year. That means that every year Congress has to agree to take the money out of the Highway Trust Fund and spend it on...highways.
While it may seem obvious to those of us who use the highways for business and personal use that there is plenty of need for these dollars, $39.1 billion is a lot of money and there are those who would divert some of those funds to other causes. We have to keep reminding representatives and senators how important transportation is, not just for our industry but for the U.S. economy as a whole.
- Identifying new sources of funding for infrastructure needs - We have come to expect that clean, safe water whenever we open a tap in this country. That's not true in much of the rest of the world, and there are cities in the United States where it's not true all the time.
The EPA, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Water Infrastructure Network are all predict a funding shortfall of as much as $500 billion in water construction during the next 20 years.
One of the biggest problems with water issues is that they are "hidden" underground, and are not obvious until there is a local notice to boil your water or some other indicator of poor water quality. Many of the AED members present at the Government Affairs Committee felt a user fee, similar to the Highway Trust Fund, is a logical way to fund needed investment in our water infrastructure.
Whether that gets passed is another issue. The federal gas tax hasn't changed since the 1980's, and may fall short of our needs after 2009, but attempts to adjust the tax for inflation have met resistance both in Congress and at the White House.
We were able to point out to our representatives in Washington that the needs are there (most of them agree) and ask them to work on developing funding mechanisms that make both good policy and political sense.
While in Washington, we also heard from several representatives and senators that the grassroots lobbying AED does is the best way to get our message heard.
Many thanks to 2006 Government Affairs Committee Chairman Bob McNutt and to Christian Klein and his staff for putting on a great meeting. Most importantly I'd like to thank the AED members who are involved in the political process. If you support the WEF, are involved with AED PAC, if you participate in a local IMPACT fundraiser, or if you come to Washington to participate in person you are helping our industry.
You are also a part of what makes this such a great nation. Thank you!
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