Water, highways, sales taxes top priorities for NACo
The National Association of Counties (NACo) lists the organization’s legislative priorities for the remainder of the legislative session. Priorities include clarifying the “Waters of the U.S.” rule, allowing local governments to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases and securing long-term funding for transportation.
I. WATERS OF THE U.S.
Associate Legislative Director for Environment, Energy and Land Use Julie Ufner says the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, which seeks to expand the definition of the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act, would impact local governments that manage water infrastructure. According to the NACo website, the organization supports “common-sense environmental protection,” but says expanded federal oversight would delay critical work, increase uncertainty and drain local budgets without providing any “proven environmental benefit.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 5078, which would forbid the EPA and the Corps from implementing the changes proposed in the “Waters of the U.S.” rule and would require consulting with local governments. Ufner says the FY 2015 Energy and Water and Interior appropriations bills have provisions delaying the implementation of “Waters of the U.S.” for a year. Furthermore, counties can submit comments, including how the proposal will affect them. Comments are due Oct. 20. As the EPA expects over one million comments, the final rules won’t be available until June 2015. She also recommended county leaders educate their congressmen and write op-eds in support of delaying the implementation of the rules.
Those interested in learning more about NACo’s position can visit here.
II. INTERNET TAX COLLECTION
In a call Sept. 9, Associate Legislative Director for Telecommunications and Technology Yejin Jang spoke out in support of the Marketplace and Tax Fairness Act (S. 2609). This bill would allow states and local communities to collect taxes on Internet and remote purchases by requiring Internet sellers collect it at the time of sale. The bill would also extend for 10 years the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which forbids state and local governments from taxing Internet access and is slated to expire Nov. 1. Jang says that ensuring taxes can be collected on online purchases is a priority for NACo, as $11.4 billion in sales taxes went uncollected on online purchases in 2012. She urges members to support ITFA’s temporary extension of the ban on taxing Internet access as an alternative to the permanent ban also under discussion.
III. TRANSPORTATION SPENDING
Associate Legislative Director for Transportation Jessica Monahan says although a short-term patch will keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent through May 2015, she doesn’t expect a long-term funding proposal until the next Congress convenes in January. HTF funding is critical to state-level transportation spending, and cuts there can lead to unfinished projects and job losses. Monahan says long-term certainty is necessary, as consistent financial patches for the HTF are just “kicking the can down the road.”
Monahan says funding a long-term proposal is up for debate. Funding proposals include raising the federal gasoline tax as well as a vehicle-miles traveled tax.