WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) called on Members of Congress to expand the use of tax-exempt debt to meet future financing thresholds in response to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.
NAST President and Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said, “State and local governments finance more than 75 percent of all U.S. infrastructure projects, and while we are pleased to see that the proposal recognizes the importance of partnering with state and local governments, policymakers must ensure we have access to the funding mechanisms needed to execute this robust plan. As the House and Senate develop legislation, we urge lawmakers to expand the use of tax-exempt debt to ensure state and local governments can maximize their ability to support critically needed infrastructure enhancement.”
Developed during NAST’s 2018 Legislative Conference yesterday in Washington D.C., state treasurers outlined the following three principles to guide federal policymakers as they consider the administration’s infrastructure proposal:
- Clear Need: State treasurers agree that America’s aging infrastructure requires significant upgrades, which will require substantial investments from a variety of sources in order to meet the needs.
- State & Local Input: State and local governments fund more than three-quarters of the nation’s infrastructure, which includes bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, and water management projects. Therefore, state and local officials understand the financial tools needed to implement a robust infrastructure plan and they must be involved in the decision-making process surrounding infrastructure spending.
- Smart Solutions: To ensure state and local governments are equipped with the financial tools needed to implement a major infrastructure plan, Congress must support tax-exempt financing. This includes maximizing the use of tax-exempt municipal bonds, private activity bonds, and reinstating access to tax-exempt advance refunding bonds.
“State treasurers are experts on infrastructure finance, and we must ensure that this plan is implemented using smart strategies that optimize the use of public funds,” said NAST Senior Vice President and Utah State Treasurer David Damschen. “We welcome the expansion of private activity bonds in the President’s infrastructure proposal, and we urge lawmakers to build on this by providing state treasurers with access to the diverse funding mechanisms needed to expedite these important investments. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to advance these critical goals.”
Treasurer Damschen explained that tax-exempt advance refunding bonds helped save Utah taxpayers more than $105 million over the past five years alone by allowing the state to refinance bonds at lower interest rates. Last year, states issued more than $100 billion in advance refunding bonds. This refinancing tool was a common practice in states and allowed them to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars per year, which could be reinvested in vital infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, the recent federal tax reform law eliminated the tax-exempt status of advance refunding bonds.
During a panel discussion this morning at NAST’s 2018 Legislative Conference, U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL) announced that he and U.S. Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), both Co-Chairs of the Municipal Finance Caucus, introduced legislation today to restore the tax exemption for advance refunding bonds that was repealed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“States and local governments need flexibility for managing their finances so they can invest in infrastructure like roads, bridges, hospital, libraries and schools to support our communities,” said Rep. Hultgren. “In recent years, tax-exempt advance refunding bonds have saved Illinois taxpayers $80 million per year on average. Given that interest rates are expected to increase, this tool is especially important to states and local governments responsibly planning for the future.”
To learn more about NAST’s federal policies, or about infrastructure spending, click here.