Senate committee proposes to return $5.8 billion to Highway Trust Fund

| 9/21/2007

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee prepared this week to markup legislation that would result in replenishing the shrinking Highway Trust Fund. Markup refers to a committee’s review of the text of a bill before sending it on to the full Senate.

Without a $5.8-billion temporary fix offered by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-IA, the Highway Trust Fund could officially be broke by September 2009.

The trust fund is the clearinghouse for fuel taxes and other user-based revenue that funds highway and transportation projects. But, as truckers and other highway users have been witness to, the fund has been spread thin and depleted by projects not directly related to transportation.

Baucus said the committee added trust-fund provisions to a markup the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual reauthorization bill.

“Since 1998, more than $3.3 billion has been spent from the Highway Trust Fund to respond to emergencies such as the Sept. 11 attacks and several hurricanes,” Baucus stated in a press release. “Unforeseen expenses as a result of terrorism or natural disasters should more appropriately be met by the General Fund.”

Approximately $1 billion of the proposal to replenish the fund will come from new revenue, Baucus stated. That revenue would be generated from an additional tax on finished gasoline at the refinery.

The proposed markup also includes the closing of other tax loopholes and the suspension of transfers from the Highway Trust Fund for “some non-highway purposes or by local transit systems.”

The committee markup was scheduled for 4 p.m., Eastern time, Thursday, Sept. 20.

– By David Tanner, staff writer