NAST urges Congress to preserve muni exemption

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WASHINGTON — The voices of state and local officials weighing in on the need to preserve and expand the municipal bond market will reach chorus status this week.

Ahead of its annual legislative conference in Washington next week, the National Association of State Treasurers wants Congress to know its top priority continues to be preserving the muni tax exemption. The group stressed that point in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late last week.

“As you consider the important task of promoting infrastructure projects across the country, we encourage you to maintain tax exempt municipal bonds, expand the availability of private activity bonds and to reinstate tax-exempt advance refundings,” NAST President David Damschen wrote to Pelosi, a California Democrat.

Damschen, the state treasurer of Utah, and other members of NAST have joined other municipal bond advocates in urging Congress to enact infrastructure legislation this year that will expand the use of tax-exempt bonds.

Infrastructure is expected to be one of the few areas of potential agreement between the Democratic controlled House and President Trump, although they remain deeply divided at the moment on the need for a border wall with Mexico.

Parts of the federal government are operating on a stopgap budget measure that expires Feb. 15.

Trump is expected to weigh in with his latest ideas for infrastructure during his Tuesday night State of the Union speech.

Earlier that day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to hear from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., at a forum on infrastructure that includes the mayors of San Antonio, Texas, and Gary, Indiana.

Among the chamber’s speakers will be Jennifer Aument, president for North America at Transurban, one of the leading firms engaged in public-private partnerships to build new infrastructure such as express toll lanes in northern Virginia.

DeFazio also will chair his committee’s first 2019 hearing on infrastructure on Thursday under the title, "The cost of doing nothing: why investing in our nation's infrastructure cannot wait."

Scheduled speakers at the Thursday hearing include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors task force on infrastructure, and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, co-chair of the bipartisan group, Building America’s Future.

Gov. Tim Walz, D-Minn., will address the hearing on behalf of the National Governors Association.

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Muni tax exemption Tax-exempt bonds Infrastructure U.S. Chamber of Commerce USCM NGA Washington DC