Herald-Whig Editorial: Graves has earned right to keep seat in U.S. House

U.S. REP. Sam Graves has been a champion for progress and prosperity in Northern Missouri during his nearly 18 years in Congress.

He is seeking re-election to a 10th term, and we commend him to voters.

Graves, a Republican from Tarkio, has worked to advance a pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-small-business agenda to meet the needs of a district that stretches across the northern one-third of the state.

He understands what is necessary to create and retain well-paying jobs, and he recognizes that continuing to upgrade the state’s transportation infrastructure leads that list.

Graves serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which deals with roads, bridges, waterways, railroads and airports. As a senior member, he plans to seek the chairmanship of that panel in the next Congress if Republicans maintain their majority. If successful, that would give this region a strong voice on significant issues.

Graves believes it is essential to look at 21st century alternatives for generating revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. The federal gasoline tax rate of 18.4 cents per gallon was set in 1993, and it has lost 43 percent of its buying power because of inflation, the increasing efficiency of conventional cars and the popularity of electric vehicles.

He noted that in 2015, the year Congress passed the most recent five-year highway bill, federal transportation taxes collected just $39 billion in gas tax revenue to support $52 billion in program commitments. The Congressional Budget Office predicts gas tax revenue will continue its steep decline.

While saying “all options are on the table,” Graves supports replacing the gas tax with a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT). He believes a modest VMT user fee on personal and commercial vehicles could raise enough funding to replace the gas tax and exceed current infrastructure obligations.

Congress approved $95 million in the FAST Act to support state experiments with VMT fees. Fourteen Western states are studying everything from pay-at-the-pump options for VMT to interoperability issues when drivers cross state borders, but it could take a decade to implement.

In the meantime, Graves believes an ambitious infrastructure plan proposed by President Donald Trump, which would rely heavily on public-private partnerships, will gain traction in the next Congress and include revenue for highway and river transportation projects.

Graves’ district borders sections of both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and he has been a proponent of building 1,200-foot lock chambers along the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers that would effectively double their capacity to move agriculture and mineral products to national and international markets.

Unfortunately, Congress has been unwilling to commit funds for those vital upgrades since first approving the Water Resources Development Act in 2007.

Graves also believes expanding rural broadband internet service is “vitally important” to the future of businesses, schools and health care providers. He says $255 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission to address that issue in Missouri is a promising start.

Democrat Henry Martin of Kansas City and Libertarian Dan Hogan of St. Charles County also are running in the 6th District.

Martin is an Army veteran and educator who says infrastructure improvements, better education and justice reform are issues he wants to address in Congress. Hogan, an Amtrak conductor who made an unsuccessful bid for the 3rd District seat in 2016, also served in the Army and believes crumbling infrastructure and the impact of potential trade wars are the two biggest issues facing Missourians.

Neither of the challengers has given voters a reason to oust an experienced and effective officeholder.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves has served this region well, and we urge his re-election.

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