A bipartisan bill to plug the Highway Trust Fund’s growing shortfall with additional revenue from motor fuels taxes was introduced last week by Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).
The Bridge to a Sustainable Future Act, which has 18 cosponsors in the House, would index motor fuels taxes to inflation, starting immediately, and use the additional revenue to be generated over the next 10 years up front to buy time for a bipartisan commission to propose a new funding mechanism.
If Congress doesn’t adopt the commission’s proposal or an alternative by the end of 2016, the legislation would trigger periodic increases in motor fuels taxes to cover trust fund spending for the rest of the decade.
While many others have offered proposals to simply shift money from the government’s general fund or to use one-time sources of revenue, these approaches would only cover a few short years and violate the “user-pays” principle on which the highway trust fund has historically been based.
In contrast, the new bill would ensure at least 10 years of reliable highway and mass transit funding without increasing the deficit over the next decade. With the Highway Trust Fund projected to be exhausted in less than two months, congressional leadership should seriously consider proposals such as this one.