Stick to the Road
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) on highway funding and help for U.S. truckers
By Mindy Long
As the Chairman of the Small Business Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) knows firsthand how important a solid transportation system is to the U.S. economy.
Graves has been a member of Congress since 2001 and also serves on the Agriculture Committee.
Q The highway bill is clearly a top priority this year. What changes would you like to see to ensure our transportation system will meet America’s needs in the coming years?
A Streamlining the project delivery process and eliminating programs that have little or nothing to do with roads or bridges are two of my highest priorities. The longer a project takes, the more it will cost. Non-transportation related projects funded by highway trust fund revenue decrease investment in traditional highway projects. Our economy depends on a highway and interstate system that can move people and goods efficiently.
Q It is well known that the highway trust fund we use to pay for transportation projects is nearly broke. What methods of funding do you propose to ensure there is enough money to meet our transportation needs?
A First, I do not support raising the gas tax. That said, I am open to all other ideas to increase investment in highway spending, but I don’t necessarily believe that requires we generate new revenue. Cutting bureaucratic red tape and focusing our transportation dollars on highway- and bridge-related projects will help.
I also don’t believe we can toll our way to transportation funding prosperity. It is a double tax that Americans can’t afford right now. Americans today are already feeling squeezed every time they fill up.
Q As you move forward on the highway bill, how will you protect professional truckers from increases in their costs of doing business, specifically tolls and taxes?
A Part of what we can do to help is to pursue an American energy plan. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by tapping our own domestic resources. I do not support a tax increase, and I want to keep regulation to a minimum for truckers. That means spending federal dollars on roads and bridges, rather than programs that pull money away for other things. I do not support tolls. They are a double taxation that will only make it harder for professional truckers to meet the bottom line.
A I have been very active in making sure that our nation’s truckers are not put at a disadvantage when it comes to international competition. I’ve worked to limit Mexican truckers to an operating area near the border. I will continue to work on Hours of Service rules to ensure DOT regulations are not overly burdensome on the regulated community. As the chairman of the Small Business Committee, I know that owner-operator rigs are just that. I believe that interstate commerce is important to our overall economy.
Q Some groups are interested in changing federal law to allow states to sell food and fuel at rest areas. That move to commercialization would undoubtedly close many of the travel plazas that provide 90 percent of truck parking. What is your position on this issue?
A I’m generally opposed to rest area commercialization. However, this is an issue we need to examine more carefully during transportation committee hearings in the near future. Overall, I think commercialization has a negative impact on small businesses and travel plazas. I want to hear all sides before I make a final decision on the issue.