House GOP budget proposal offers Highway Trust Fund solution; transportation advocates aren’t impressed
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Budget Committee chairman, on Tuesday introduced the fiscal year 2015 House Republican budget, which offers a solution for the nearly insolvent Highway Trust Fund (HTF).
The HTF — the main source of funding for state and local surface transportation projects — is expected to run out of money as early as the end of July, a full two months before the current transportation bill, MAP-21, is set to expire.
Politico notes that the budget prioritizes “maintaining the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the policy of the trust fund being user-fee supported.”
Additionally, The Chattanoogan reports that the measure “contains concepts” from the Transportation Empowerment Act. Rep. Tom Grave, who authored the act, said it “is about building better roads, cutting commute time and improving people’s lives.”
However, not everyone is impressed with the proposed bill.
The White House criticized the proposed budget in a statement Tuesday, saying “It would force deep cuts to investments in our roads and bridges,” among other programs.
The “deep cuts” the White House mentioned refer to significant limits placed on transportation spending. The measure would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to limit spending on road and transit projects to the amount of revenue the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax brings in “unless transfers from other areas of the federal budget are offset with additional spending cuts,” The Hill reports.
The gas tax has has been the same for two decades and brings in about $34 billion each year. The proposed bill suggest keeping the gas tax at current levels.
In addition to White House criticism, transportation advocates — including AAA Auto Club Vice President of Public Affairs Kathleen Bower — are expressing their discontent for the proposed measure.
Bower also criticized deep cuts in transportation funding, noting that the bill “will not provide an appropriate level of investment necessary to build and maintain the nation’s 21st century transportation system.”
“The significant cuts he is proposing will hamper investments in safety, further delay needed bridge improvements and hamper mobility in and around congested urban areas,” Bower told The Hill.
The budget proposes the gas tax remain at current levels. However Bower said a better solution would be to increase those levels.
“The best solution for the near term would be a fiscally responsible proposal — such as increasing the federal gas tax coupled with improved accountability — that adds additional revenue to the Highway Trust Fund,” Bower said.
In December, House Democrats proposed a $0.15-per-gallon gas tax hike, which would have nearly doubled the current level. However, the bill failed to pass.
The House Budget Committee began marking up the proposed budget on Wednesday.
To read the full proposed bill, click here.