House leaders propose short-term transportation fix

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 6/2/2014

In a plan that caught many in Washington off-guard, House leaders have proposed a one-year temporary extension to the current highway bill. Critics say the proposal does not go far enough to address the long-term needs of the Highway Trust Fund.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., proposed a one-year extension to the highway bill on Friday, May 30, which would require a $14 billion to $15 billion transfer from general funds.

To pay for the bailout, McCarthy said House Republicans are seeking the elimination of Saturday first-class mail and magazine delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

The Postal Service is independent of the government, but receives bailouts of its own to prevent the agency from going broke. Changing the Saturday delivery schedule to packages only would end approximately $10.7 billion in subsidies over the next few years.

House Republican leaders would transfer those savings to the Highway Trust Fund. The rest of the short-term proposal would come from transferring funds from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to the Highway Trust Fund, according to McCarthy.

In a press release, House leadership said a shorter-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund would not interfere with the process for getting a longer-term highway bill in place.

“The problems presented to us in paying for a short-term extension are different from those facing a long-term bill,” according to the press release. “Ultimately, a long-term bill needs to solve the structural imbalance in the program that has lasted for many years, where revenues cannot support spending levels.”

Senate transportation leaders disagree, saying the House proposal undermines the process. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the proposal announced by McCarthy “unworkable.”

“This idea is a jobs killer, which does not even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long enough period of time to provide the certainty that states, cities and businesses need,” Boxer said in a statement.

“It is unworkable, makes no sense, and ignores the huge infrastructure needs we face, as so many bridges and roads are in grave disrepair.”

Last month, the Senate EPW Committee proposed a six-year, approximately $300 billion highway bill. In late April, the White House and U.S. Department of Transportation asked Congress to consider a four-year, $302 billion bill.

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