WASHINGTON—With the potential of the country coming out of the COVID-19 crisis sometime in 2021 thanks to vaccines, the business of Washington could start to look more like normal in the coming year.
And that business could impact the tire industry in a variety of ways.
For most of 2020, Democrats and Republicans were locked in a debate over the need for additional COVID-19 relief that eventually came in late December.
President Joe Biden, who took office Jan. 20, has signaled that infrastructure spending will be on the new administration's agenda.
What historically has been a bipartisan effort to pass infrastructure spending ended up stalling under President Donald Trump, said Roy Littlefield, executive director of the Tire Industry Association.
"Biden wants to come in and pass an infrastructure funding bill, and we certainly support infrastructure spending and the work and jobs it brings to the industry," Littlefield said. "But we have to be careful.
"What's happening with the Highway Trust Fund is that more and more percentage of that money is going to mass transit and less and less to roads and bridges."
It's not uncommon for governments to raid dedicated funds to pay for something completely unrelated. Think Social Security on the national level or recycling accounts on the local level, for example.
With 28 percent of the Highway Trust Fund now being diverted to mass transit, Littlefield is worried the tire and automotive repair segments could be seen as easy marks to raise more money needed to pay for the infrastructure work.
Such funding comes from a variety of sources, including fuel and truck tire excise taxes. Passenger tire excise taxes were once in place but done away with in 1982.