Senate, House tangle over highway funding cliff

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) discusses the Highway Trust Fund. Photo via C-SPAN.

In the past week, with just days left before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed short-term measures that would keep the fund solvent through the end of this year.

While both plans are essentially short-term patches for a long-term problem—meeting America’s growing infrastructure needs with funding from a gas tax that hasn’t risen since 1993—the Senate version, passed Tuesday, is a big step in the right direction.

Gone are the pension-smoothing and accounting gimmicks, included in the House’s earlier version of the bill, that Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) called “generational theft.” Furthermore, rather than delay the Trust Fund’s insolvency to May of 2015, the new proposal only runs through the end of this year, forcing Congress to confront a long-term solution sooner.

“The insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund is a major threat to our infrastructure and to our economy,” said Smart Growth America President Geoffrey Anderson. “We’re happy to see that the Senate is serious about reasonable funding measures and a long-term bipartisan solvency solution.”

“Today’s votes held some positive signs for the future of our nation’s transportation system,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America, in a statement released today. “The Senate overwhelmingly rejected a move to dismantle our key infrastructure fund, and instead challenged themselves to take up a long-term funding solution this year.”

The Senate’s amended version of the bill will head back to the House on Thursday to be considered for passage before the August recess begins this weekend.