Peach Pundit: Congress Punts On Highway Funding

It takes 5.5 years to move from giving the go head to a federal transportation project to letting the contract.  Renewing funding on 2 months increments only adds unnecessary delay and uncertainty to the projects, but that’s the most recent solution Washington has given us.

From Jon Richards at Peach Pundit:

Tuesday, the effort to find a long-term solution to pay for the nation’s highway infrastructure before the current funding authority for the Highway Trust Fund expires at the end of the month failed. Instead, the House passed H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, with a bipartisan vote of 387-35. All Georgia representatives voted in favor of the measure.

As Daniel Malloy and Andrea Simmons with the AJCreport, the short term fix will allow several Georgia highway projects to begin. However, the lack of a long-term solution makes project planning more difficult for the Georgia DOT. Although the state legislature passed a plan that provides $900 million in additional revenue for transportation purposes, that money won’t be available until FY 2017, which is over a year away.

Lawmakers have been unable to figure out how to pay for a long term solution to the nation’s transportation needs. There isn’t any appetite for raising the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gasoline excise tax. President Obama has proposed a fix by using money from repatriated overseas tax revenue to bridge the gap between what the gas tax brings in and what is needed to pay for projects, but the GOP controlled congress wants to tie funding to a longer term tax reform plan that could take shape this fall.

Quoted in the AJC story, Congressman Rob Woodall brings up a concern about voter trust that’s was also heard under the Gold Dome during the effort to pass Georgia’s transportation funding bill.

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, a Lawrenceville Republican who is the only Georgian on the House Transportation Committee, said the problem is about more than funding. A long-term transportation bill, he said, should prevent the federal government from using highway trust fund money on sidewalks and bike lanes, which should instead be paid for by local governments.

“Should Washington pay for them is a fair question,” Woodall said. “But this conversation isn’t about not having enough revenue. There is enough revenue coming in. It’s about: Are the users who are paying the user fee believing those dollars go to road construction?”

Sixth District Congressman Tom Price, who heads the House Budget Committee, also expressed support for a long term funding solution, saying in a statement,

While the House acted today on a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, a long-term, comprehensive solution to improve our transportation infrastructure must remain a top priority in the months to come. Keeping our roadways, highways and bridges safe contributes a tremendous amount to the economic vitality of our communities – particularly for the individuals, families and businesses who live and work in and around Atlanta. A long-term solution would provide states, ongoing and future transportation projects, and workers with much needed stability and certainty.

The Senate is expected to take up and pass the short term measure before leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break, but many Democrats in that chamber aren’t happy with it, and also prefer a long term solution. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “What the Republicans have given us now is an opportunity for America to patch its way to prosperity. They believe that if you fill enough potholes, you can actually build a highway.”

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