The federal government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly dry again. Remember when we played this game last year?
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Friday said, “we ought to be embarrassed as a country” about the state of the nation’s infrastructure, as lawmakers once again scramble to beat a May 31 deadline for extending federal transportation funds.
A Patch for the Patch
Lawmakers have talked about passing a $10 billion patch to extend transportation funding until the end of the year, but Foxx said temporary extensions are not sufficient enough to address the nation’s infrastructure needs.
“We ought to be embarrassed as a country,” he said after an appearance at a Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway station in Northern Virginia.
Foxx has a point as last year’s fix for hundreds of millions of dollars in highway, bridge and public works projects was supposed to give lawmakers time to come up with a comprehensive solution to funding the steel, concrete and underground pipe and tunnel work necessary to ensure safety of our rapidly aging infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund is currently funded only by gas taxes and a user fee that hasn’t been adjusted since 1993.
Manufacturers Urge Long-Term Fix
Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, recently wrote in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Op-Ed that, “the cycle of short-term fixes already is damaging our economy. States already have pulled back on hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investment amid uncertainty over whether Congress will pay its trust fund tab. That hurts job creation right here in Wisconsin, among our state’s many manufacturers, contractors and workers in related industries.”
Slater and AEM urged Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the influential House Ways and Means committee, to push for a 5-year, fully funded fix for the trust fund rather than another short-term extension.
“Ryan has begun to float a short-term extension to buy himself more time to craft comprehensive tax reform legislation — a laudable goal — which he says would account for highway investments,” Slater wrote. “But the safety of America’s roads and bridges shouldn’t depend on the fate of tax reform, which faces an arduous path forward on Capitol Hill.”
Congress has three weeks to act.