The impending Congressional election tomorrow offers something of a mixed bag for trucking, according to a range of observers.
For example, if the Republican Party expands its majority in the House of Representatives and wins a majority in the Senate as well, experts think that could potentially help slow down the “pipeline” of regulatory efforts aimed at motor carriers by the Obama administration over the last six years.
Yet analysts also believe if Republicans win an across-the-board Congressional majority, efforts to boost fuel taxes in order to generate more funds for highway infrastructure may stall.
In a conference call with reporters organized by Wall Street investment firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co. on Friday, David Osiecki – executive VP and chief of national advocacy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group – noted that no single “national issue” is driving the mid-term elections this year.
Rather, a range of state-by-state issues – particularly transportation-funding ballot issues in several of them – will drive voter engagement this year.
“Voter turnout is really going to be key,” Osiecki said. “The Senate is what’s really in play and Republicans need to pick up six seats out of the 10 seats in play to claim a majority.”
He cautioned, however, that in two states – Georgia and Louisiana – candidates must win with 50% of the vote or face a runoff election.
“And Georgia would hold its runoff in December, with Louisiana’s in January,” Osiecki said, meaning it might take significant time for the next Congress to truly settle in for business.
If Republicans do claim a majority in both the Senate and the House in tomorrow’s elections, Osiecki would expect a “different perspective” to descend on the “regulatory pipeline” affecting trucking.
“More oversight of the regulatory process, with more hearings, would slow things down – that would benefit trucking,” he said.
On the flip side, though, Republicans are disinclined to raise taxes, thus potentially tabling efforts to either increase federal fuel taxes directly or index them to inflation in some manner in order to generate more transportation infrastructure funding, Osiecki noted.
“That’s why we see a mixed bag for trucking in this election,” he pointed out.
Getting Congress to adopt a more restrictive fiscal stance is the goal of several major interest groups in this election cycle as well.
"Few elections in recent memory are as critical to the fiscal future of this nation, and these serious times call for equally serious candidates ready to lead the charge for limited government," noted Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union Campaign Fund (NTUCF), in a statement.
"Putting the nation's finances back on the path to sanity will take a combination of experienced taxpayer advocates, recently-elected champions of fiscal responsibility, and many energetic newcomers," he added.
A recent poll of so-called “middle-market” companies across the country conducted by CIT Sponsor Finance also highlights a range of other concerns – notably healthcare costs – that are weighing on the U.S. business community ahead of tomorrow’s election:
- Those areas of top concern include: continued economic uncertainty (76%); costs associated with complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “ObamaCare” (75%); regulations (71%) and tax increases (70%)
- Tax reform is a top priority for respondents with 84% saying they want Congress to take action on this issue.
- Additionally, about three-fourths of middle-market business executives want changes to healthcare reform, investments in infrastructure, and increasing domestic energy production.
- Less than half (40%) think raising the federal minimum wage should be taken up by the 114th Congress.
- The outgoing 113th Congress received low marks with 84% of executives disapproving of Congress’ job performance, while roughly two-thirds disapprove of President Obama’s job performance.
- In addition, the vast majority believe Congress is doing too little to support both small (86%) and middle market (77%) businesses.
- The majority of middle market executives (55%) say a Republican-controlled Congress would be good for their company, while only one in five think a Democrat-controlled Congress would be better for their firm (21%).
- Just over half would like the next president to be a Republican (54%).