Lawmakers Weigh Options on Transportation Funding

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After passing a two-month extension of transportation programs in May, lawmakers are scrambling to scrape together enough revenue to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.

The Department of Transportation confirmed last week that the trust fund will be unable to make payments after July 31.

Lawmakers should agree on a responsible long-term solution to funding transportation programs that meet high-priority needs.

At hearings last week held by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, top lawmakers said they wanted to pass a 6-year reauthorization of transportation programs but were light on the details of paying for it.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that dedicated revenue for the trust fund will fall short of planned spending by nearly $90 billion over six years, leaving lawmakers with a large gap to fill if they want a 6-year extension of transportation programs.

Fuels taxes, the trust fund’s dedicated funding source, have not been raised since 1993 despite inflation, including rising construction and maintenance costs.

“We haven’t made any meaningful adjustment since 1993 to the gas tax, relying on short-term fixes, gimmicks – and no matter how you slice it, adding to the deficit,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a Ways and Means member.

External links:
Testimony on Highway Trust Fund and Options for Paying for Highway Spending (CBO)
Highway Trust Fund Shortfall Approaches Again; DOT Ticker Reappears (DOT Blog)

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