Federal Update
Deadlines loom for Highway Trust Fund

By David Tanner, associate editor

With summer deadlines looming for federal transportation funding, House lawmakers have proposed a one-year temporary extension to the current highway bill, saying there’s not enough time for Congress to finalize a multiyear plan before the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money.

Critics seeking a multiyear approach say the proposal does not go far enough.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is proposing a one-year extension that requires a $14 billion transfer from general funds.

To offset costs, the whip’s plan initially called for the elimination of Saturday first-class mail and magazine delivery by the U.S. Postal Service – an effort to generate approximately $10.7 billion.

Pushback against the cuts, coupled with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss in the Republican primary in Virginia, doomed the proposed cuts according to sources on Capitol Hill.

At press time, McCarthy had withdrawn the Postal Service plan and announced a proposal to increase pension premiums for government employees to pay for the extension.

House leadership said a temporary extension would not interfere with getting a longer-term highway bill in place to replace MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, sometime later on.

“The problems presented to us in paying for a short-term extension are different from those facing a long-term bill,” McCarthy said in a statement. “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.

“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,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., 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. LL