No consensus yet on highway funding proposals, NSSGA says

By |  June 5, 2014

It appears Congress is aware that action must be taken to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. Several Congressional members have proposed solutions, NSSGA says, but getting them to agree on one proves elusive.

NSSGA says recent estimates show the Highway Trust Fund will fall below the $4 billion balance required to continue funding highway projects by late August, and maybe as early as mid-July. An estimated $5 billion may be needed to fund the highway program through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, and $10 billion will be required for the Highway Trust Fund to remain solvent through the end of 2014.

One proposal by House Republican leaders calls for using the abolishment of Saturday postal mail delivery as a “pay-for” to offset the next short-term bailout of the Highway Trust Fund, according to a memorandum circulated May 30.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would save $13.65 billion in Postal Service outlays from 2015 to 2024. The Obama administration proposed eliminating Saturday mail delivery previously, however the idea was met with opposition. An additional offset under consideration is transferring some of the funds that now go into the Leaking Underground Storage Tank trust fund into the Highway Trust Fund, according to NSSGA.  The memo by House Republican leaders concludes that these “pay-fors” would keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through May 2015.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure and a member of the Senate Finance Committee that must fund the Highway Trust Fund, called the Republican House proposal a non-starter, NSSGA says.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also dismissed the proposal and continues to advocate for passage of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill before the expiration of MAP-21.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also unveiled a proposal on May 30 that provides for a 12 cents-per-gallon user fee increase as a way to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.  Murphy says this fee also should be indexed to inflation, NSSGA says.  He charged House and Senate legislators with “political cowardice” for not raising the 18.4 cents gas user fee in 21 years.  Murphy’s proposal would increase the gas user fee 6 cents-per-gallon in 2015 with another 6 cents-per-gallon increase in 2016.  He also proposed a 12-cent increase in the 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax from 2015 to 2016.

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