Congress moves toward short-term transportation fix

Chairman Wyden helped two committees arrive at a short-term fix.

This week, the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees moved toward passing a short-term fix for the transportation funding crisis, with each committee passing a complementary bill designed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through at least early 2015. If passed into law, the bills would transfer $10.8 billion dollars to the trust fund, keeping federal transportation operations in the black for another few months.

Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America, responded in their statement:

Without this stopgap — if approved — worked out by Chairman Wyden and Chairman Camp and their respective committees, reimbursements to states would have been cut as much as 28 percent starting in just a few weeks, according to the U.S. DOT. But Congress has bought itself only a few months to address the larger problem of long-term solvency.

The upshot is that both measures have enough revenue to carry the trust fund into 2015, although Democrats have been pushing to consider a long-term transportation measure before the end of the year. Sen. Tom Carper offered an amendment to reduce the amount of the patch so that it would expire at the end of December, but it was not approved. Overall, the bill passed with just one “no” vote from Senator Carper.

The real question is how long this revenue cobbled from multiple accounting gimmicks will hold out. May 15 seems optimistic, given how the insolvency point moved sooner and sooner over the course of this year. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office projected we’d need $8 billion just to make it through this year.

“We are pleased that Congress has begun to take the situation seriously and will avoid the economic pain of an insolvent trust fund, at least for the very near term,” said T4America Director James Corless.

“Perhaps the most important outcome is that the debate in both chambers showed a growing discomfort with short-term accounting tricks and a bipartisan desire for a long-term solution. In truth they have only bought themselves a few short months to grapple with an issue they have delayed for years. We look forward to working with Chairman Wyden, Chairman Camp and other leaders as they make good on their promise to work in earnest on a long-term solution to fund the infrastructure our economy and daily lives depend on.”

To learn more, read Transportation for America’s full take on their website.