The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $48.8 billion available to states from the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment act, also known as the “jobs bill,” which became law earlier this year.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated on Wednesday, April 21, that $40.1 billion will come from the Highway Trust Fund’s 2010 allotment. Another $8.7 billion will come from restored funding that was rescinded when the transportation funding program SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009.
The jobs bill extended Highway Trust Fund programs through Dec. 31 of this year at status quo levels established in SAFETEA-LU in 2005.
The Highway Trust Fund continues to survive on short-term extensions like the jobs bill as Congress works on a new five- or six-year authorization bill estimated to cost $450 billion to $500 billion.
Lawmakers continue to debate possible ways to fund the bill. The White House is reluctant to raise fuel taxes in the current economy, while Congress looks at concepts of tolling, privatization, higher heavy vehicle use taxes for trucks, and a possible tax on vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.
OOIDA supports a responsible user-pay system based on fuel taxes and other federal user fees that support the Highway Trust Fund. Heavy trucks make up about 3 percent of registered vehicles, but truckers and companies pay enough in taxes to fund 36 percent of all programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund.
– By David Tanner, associate editor