Transportation on back burner as Congress tackles immigration, gun control

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/16/2013

Immigration, gun control and other pressing matters in Congress have pushed long-term transportation funding to the back burner, at least for now.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday, April 16, that the White House intends to roll out a “bold plan” for transportation in the future, but he said it won’t happen until after Congress and President Obama finish dealing with other matters.

Another pressing matter for the administration is the federal budget cuts brought on by a congressional action called sequester.

The current funding law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, took effect in October 2012 and keeps the Highway Trust Fund stocked through September 2014.

Beyond that, the fund will go broke unless Congress comes up with a long-term solution.

LaHood hinted that the administration would be making a push to address the long-term but did not say exactly what or when it would be.

Earlier this month, President Obama rolled out a short-term plan for infrastructure that contained a $50 billion boost, but his budget request did not address the eventual shortfalls in the highway account.

One thing the administration’s budget did call for was the conversion of the Highway Trust Fund into the “Transportation Trust Fund,” which would allow other modes to draw from the taxes that highway users pay.

High-speed rail is important to the administration, and LaHood underlined that fact for members of the committee on Tuesday.

While the Senate version of the budget document supports rail funding, the House version does not.

In any case, a final version of a federal budget is still a long way off, as the House, Senate and White House must reconcile differences before it can become a legal operating document.

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