Where does the user fee issue stand?

“We originally pushed for the user fee increase to be part of WRDDA. We thought that made sense.

“But there was pushback and some in Congress didn’t want it included. The legislation needed to be as non-controversial as possible.

“We look at this as a ‘user fee’ and not a tax. To operate in the system, there is currently a 20 cent per gallon of diesel fuel fee which is matched by the government. We want to raise it to 26 or 29 cents per gallon. Those funds would be used for new construction and major rehab.

“But some (lawmakers) disagreed that it isn’t a tax. Some of them signed onto the ‘no new taxes’ pledge and want nothing to do with this -- traditional tax, or not. So, it wasn’t a surprise it wasn’t included in WRDDA.

“Champions of the user fee attempted to attach it to the tax extenders bill. That isn’t the traditional place it would go and it was ruled as non-germane.

“Now, we’re waiting for the next appropriate revenue measure that might move where it could be attached. Or, it may be part of tax reform in the next Congress.

“In terms of that, we feel that’s gotten some traction already. Thanks to our ag stakeholders and others, we sent a letter signed by almost 80 stakeholders to the House Ways and Means Committee asking for the user fee and the reasons why it’s important. In turn, when chairman (Michigan Rep.) Dave Camp released his discussion draft of the tax reform bill he included a proposal to raise the user fee by six cents. He also referred to the letter, which is very unusual.

“Once tax reform moves, we expect the user fee included. That may be a six cent increase or the six-to-nine cent increase we’ve been pushing for.”