Congress is trying to avert a large slowdown in federal highway funding, but three congressional aides said their bosses want to see a long-term solution.
“We have a problem. It needs to be funded. It needs to be long range,” said Nicki Cardwell, an aide to U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-5th District.
She and aides to Rep. Sam Graves, R-6th District and U.S. Sen. Matt Blunt spoke Friday morning at a legislative update sponsored by the Blue Springs and Independence chambers of commerce.
Matt Hasse, district director in Blunt’s Kansas City office, said the Senate is taking up the issue this week. The House has passed a bill to keep the highway trust fund solvent until next May.
Cardwell pointed out that Missouri has thousands of obsolete and inadequate bridges and that highway spending helps stimulate the economy.
“We really do need to see a long-term bill,” Haase said.
The aides touched on several issues:
• Graves and Blunt are among Republicans who have raised concerns about new federal regulations, the Waters of the U.S. rule, under the 42-year-old Clean Water Act. Critics contend the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Englneers are devising rules to cover even a ditch full of water.
“We’ve got some serious, serious concerns about the clean-water rule,” Hasse said.
“So it could be a lot of red tape that businesses have to fight through,” added Melissa Roe, deputy chief of staff for Graves
Graves also is trying to keep the Corps of Engineers from purchasing land along rivers such as the Missouri.
“The congressman is opposed to the federal government buying up land,” Roe said.
• Hasse said there’s a new version of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would end the disparity between local stores having to collect sales taxes and online companies not collecting those taxes.
“We see this as a way to level the playing field ...” he said.
He pointed out it’s not a new tax but instead the bill would give state and local governments the power to collect a tax that consumers are supposed to be paying now but aren’t because there is no means to enforce those laws.
“We’re hopeful that might have a chance to move in the Senate this year,” he said.
• Both Cleaver and Graves support reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which businesses point out assists American companies that sell abroad. American manufacturers, for example, export about 60 percent of what they make.
“It supports American jobs,” Cardwell said of the Export-Import Bank.
• The border crisis in the news sparked some discussion.
“We are a country of laws,” Roe said. “Those laws need to be followed.”
She pointed out that President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the recent influx of children coming across the border, but she said Graves is skeptical unless he sees a specific plan.
“I think the first priority has to be you have to secure the border,” Haase said.
• This is Graves’ last year as chairman of the House Small Business committee – Republicans in the House have term limits for chairmen – and Roe said one his main accomplishments has been to raise the number of federal contracts set aside for small businesses.