The U.S. House last week passed a $10.8 billion stop-gap measure to extend transportation funding through May 2015.
While approval of the bill is a welcome move to avert the Aug. 1 date when federal transportation funding to the states would see an average cut of 28 percent, the House’s action is just the latest in a long series of short-term measures that have done little to alleviate a long-term problem.
The House bill is expected to be put to a vote this week in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats complain about the House’s decision to put off a broader, long-term transportation bill until the next Congress meets.
Congress has had to repeatedly approve stop-gap fixes to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for many years because revenue from the federal 18.4-cent-a-gallon gasoline and 24.4-cent-a-gallon diesel tax hasn’t kept pace with increases in transportation construction, maintenance and other costs since they were last raised in 1993.
A rare bipartisan Senate bill, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., proposes a 12-cent increase in the federal gas tax to be phased in over two years after which the tax will be indexed to inflation. But members of Congress from both parties have shown little appetite for raising taxes of any kind – especially in an election year – and like similar previous proposals, the Corker-Murphy bill is expected to go nowhere.
And House Republicans, mindful of the very good chance their party has to take control of the Senate in this year’s elections, have no desire to forge a bipartisan solution to the ongoing funding problems that plague the Highway Trust Fund with their Democratic colleagues in the Senate.
And so the problem will once again have to be faced later down the road.