WASHINGTON, D.C. – The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee Hearing on Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments.
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Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Neal.
“We have a revitalized economy buzzing with new jobs and great opportunity, but as Americans get off the sidelines and back into the workforce, they’re running into traffic jams, broken bridges, and other travel delays.
“American infrastructure projects take longer and cost more than they do in the rest of the world. Nothing about forcing Americans to pay more at the pump addresses the red tape and Washington mandates that waste our precious tax dollars.
“We need thinking from beyond the Beltway. In the 21st Century, America’s infrastructure needs are more regional than national in scope. So, we ought to think differently about how to redesign existing public financing to meet those regional challenges.
“That means thinking of creative ways to finance these needed projects. Of course, user fees should remain a key source of financing, but that shouldn’t stop us from thinking creatively on how to meet this undeniable 21st Century challenge.
“I’m thankful that President Trump is dealing with this head on. This month, the Administration put forward a new approach that means less paperwork, faster approval, and more shovel-ready projects.
“President Trump wants to put American infrastructure in the fast lane by modernizing environmental regulations.
“His proposal preserves strong standards but would make it easier for state and local officials to team up with the federal government to complete projects by accelerating the mind-numbing environmental review process.
“The Administration’s proposed rule is based on a simple principle: Get the rules right so the projects get done. Streamline projects with states and cities. Washington bureaucrats don’t need more busy work.
“Regrettably, our Democratic colleagues are hitting the emergency brake on any reasonable effort to streamline projects. They’ve called the President’s proposed rule ‘illegal.’
“So, what’s the alternative? This election Democrats want massive tax hikes on everything from your earnings, your paycheck, your utilities, and your property.
“Considering that infrastructure projects cost substantially more to complete here than any other country on the planet, forcing Americans to pay even more isn’t where a responsible Congress should start.
“One of our witnesses at our last hearing on this topic, Tom Donahue of the Chamber of Commerce, argued that we can’t afford to undo the economic gains made by the President’s tax reform and regulatory agenda by raising taxes on local businesses.
“It was and still is ‘the wrong way to go.’
“Republicans couldn’t agree more.
“Historically, infrastructure and highway bills have been passed with broad bipartisan support – and for obvious reasons.
“We need infrastructure, not tax increases on the American people or job-creating businesses. Proposals calling for the latter jeopardize any chance of attaining the former.
“We think our strong history of bipartisanship deserves better treatment than that.
“Workers who are driving used cars shouldn’t be paying higher taxes at the pump so that the wealthy can claim a tax credit for $75,000 electric vehicles.
“A factory worker driving a used pickup truck to provide for his family shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes so that a millionaire in California can write off his new Tesla.
“Both will drive on roads and bridges but only the blue-collar worker will pay any taxes to maintain them.
“We can work together on another approach. An approach that thinks ‘out of the box’ – pursuing innovative policies that will attract more private capital into infrastructure, as other countries successful do, rather than rely solely on working families to foot the bill.
“And the truth is we already have the tools ready to begin this work.
“Take Opportunity Zones: why can’t we create opportunity zones for infrastructure?
“Why aren’t we dedicating more of our private activity bonds to complete regional infrastructure projects – which they were originally create for but today are an afterthought.
“Additionally, we should explore how we can allow real estate investment trusts to invest in infrastructure.
“And even further, seeing what the impact would be of allowing our ports to capture 50 percent of their user fees to devote to multi-modal infrastructure in America’s fastest growing regions.
“Our global competitors think ‘private capitol first,’ America thinks ‘taxpayers pay first.’
“Why don’t we create the incentives for free enterprise to invest in infrastructure where it makes sense?
“I think we can streamline the approval process, reduce regulatory burdens for contractors, and empower state and local governments to complete these jobs effectively and efficiently. Let’s do that together.
“I mentioned this at yesterday’s hearing, but it bears repeating.
“Later this week, the full House will vote to repeal a previously passed AUMF.
“But Speaker Pelosi will use a procedure that blocks one of the few rights granted the minority – the Motion to Recommit.
“Silencing the minority on one of the most critical issue of the process of going to war is wrong and I raise my strong objections.
“Removing minority rights in the House could have serious, long term implications for collegiality and our ability to work together for the American people.
“Thank you, Chairman.”