Although SAFETEA-LU, the current highway funding authorization, does not expire until the end of 2009, AGC has been focused on the next reauthorization legislation since the last bill was enacted. On Oct. 23, AGC President Steve Massie, Highway and Transportation (H) Division Chairman Brian Burgett, H Vice Chairman Scott Williams and H Vice Chairman-Elect Don Weaver came to Washington to visit with key members of the House to discuss reauthorization initiatives. The AGC group met with House Transportation Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Subcommittee Rankling Republican Jimmy Duncan (Tenn.).
A key proposal AGC presented was the need to raise the user fee and the creation of a Highway User Rate Commission. AGC pointed out in the meetings that a user fee increase will be necessary in order to make any headway against increasing highway investment needs. In addition, AGC reported that AGC's economist forecasts that growing world demand will continue to keep upward pressure on highway construction material costs. This will require that the user fee keep pace with the ever increasing cost of construction if we are ever to make any progress. AGC recommended the creation of a Highway User Rate Commission that would be charged with annually assessing highway and bridge needs, inflation and other factors and determine where the user rate should be set. The concept is to allow the Commission to recommend a user fee increase that would be automatically implemented unless it were disapproved by a Super majority in Congress. The intent is to take the decision to raise the user fee out of the political realm. There was much interest in the idea among the Congressional leaders.
The AGC leadership also discussed working closely with the Congressional leaders to create the grass roots support necessary for increased funding, other revenue sources and ensuring that sufficient revenue is available to fully fund SAFETEA-LU in its final two years.