The National Conference of State Legislatures is urging Congress to take action on several issues, including transportation funding, tax-exempt financing of water infrastructure, the federal deficit and online sales taxes.
State legislators included these issues in resolutions they adopted last week at the NCSL’s legislative summit in Atlanta.
One of the resolutions urges Congress provide funding to states to support state-level pilot programs that explore transportation funding alternatives to fuel taxes, which would have to be raised to meet needs. The NCSL would like Congress to create a $20 million program for the pilot programs, with no more than $2 million going to any one state.
The resolution is a response to concerns that transportation revenues are declining because of an increase in the fuel efficiency of vehicles and a decrease in vehicle miles traveled. The Highway Trust Fund, a federal fund which provides money for state surface transportation projects, is primarily funded through motor fuel taxes and is estimated to become insolvent in fiscal year 2015. And state gas taxes are showing diminishing returns, according to the NCSL.
In another resolution, the NCSL urged Congress and the Obama administration to address water infrastructure needs.
The resolution recommends the federal government lift existing restrictions on state and local government use of tax-exempt bonds so that states have a greater ability to leverage private financing and attract new investments for water infrastructure.
The resolution also urges the federal government to formalize states’ abilities to use bonds to meet the requirement that states match 20% of the money that federal government contributes to capitalize the clean water and safe drinking water state revolving loan funds.
A bill passed by the Senate in May would create a pilot loan program called the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. If Congress creates a WIFIA program, the NCSL wants to make sure that funding for the authority is not drawn from state revolving loan funds.
The group also wants to ensure existing federal and state programs are used to distribute new federal water infrastructure funds and that funds are available only to projects that are at least $20 million.
The NCSL once again passed a resolution about federal deficit reduction. The group believes he federal government needs a broad deficit reduction plan. Critical principles the federal government should follow when addressing deficit reduction include retaining the tax-exemption for state and local government bonds and imposing no new unfunded federal mandates.
The NCSL also voted on policies pertaining to taxing online sales. The group passed a policy resolution encouraging the House to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, which the Senate approved in May. The bill would give states the authority to collect online sales taxes. Additionally, the organization passed a resolution urging Congress to pass the Digital Goods and Services Act, which sets forth a framework for taxing online purchases.