The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee each passed legislation July 10 that would patch the dwindling Highway Trust Fund until May 2015, when lawmakers aim to tackle a long-term solution.
The measures approve $10.8 billion in transfers, primarily paid for through changes to pension contributions and customs fees and a transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Fund, to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and prevent the Department of Transportation (DOT) from slowing reimbursements to states.
House Bill H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, is scheduled for a full House vote next week. Congress is expected to send President Obama the House’s version of legislation to extend the Highway Trust Fund, according to published reports.
DOT recently notified states that it will begin delaying reimbursements when the Highway Trust Fund dips below $4 billion Aug. 1. The current highway bill is set to expire Sept. 30, and the Highway Trust Fund is projected to be insolvent by fiscal year 2015.
The American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AAA, among others, criticized Congress for prolonging the long-term funding crisis, but acknowledged the need to keep the trust fund solvent through the end of this year.
Failing to pass a long-term transportation funding solution will limit states’ ability to plan infrastructure projects and hurt businesses and the economy, they said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said a long-term funding fix should be found by December. “The longer the patch, the easier it will be for Congress to kick the can down the road and avoid the tough question,” Chamber Vice President R. Bruce Josten wrote to the House Ways and Means Committe.
ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said inconsistent and unpredictable funding cycles perpetuated by the current approach of putting off passage of a long-term revenue bill could endanger the nation’s economy.
“We applaud the House and Senate Committees moving a short-term solution forward,” Graves said. “But extending the funding problem well into 2015 could endanger the nation’s economy, the future of the trucking industry and, most importantly, the safety of truck drivers and other highway users.”
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