Road Funding Takes Another Beating
- Published: Thursday, 03 July 2008 09:10
The House of Representatives has dropped a provision that would have provided an $8-billion fix to restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund's. Road funding also continues to take a beating as fewer gallons are consumed and legislators propose suspending fuel taxes.
"We are extremely disappointed that Congress did not seize the opportunity to ensure solvency of the Highway Trust Fund," said NSSGA Chairman Steve Sloan, president and CEO of Midwest Minerals, Inc. "We encourage, in fact urge, our members to contact their legislators during the July 4th congressional recess and ask them to take action on the HTF funding deficit or risk the delay, postponement, or cancellation of needed highway projects and the accompanying job losses."
The HTF provision was dropped from the House bill following opposition of Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee. They announced their opposition to the HTF fix in a joint press release which quoted Rep. Lewis as saying, "This bill just exacerbates our transportation funding problem by using an $8 billion taxpayer-funded band-aid on the terminally ill Highway Trust Fund. We need real reform and practical solutions, not more buck passing."
Ryan is proposing to suspend the federal 18.4-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax for the high-demand summer months. In a press release he says: ìTodayís announcement coincides with news that the price of a gallon of gas in Southern Wisconsin has set new record highs, averaging roughly $3.80 per gallon in some areas. With the revenues saved from the earmark moratorium, his bill would replenish the Highway Trust Fund, a critical source of funding aimed to strengthen our nationís infrastructure. The Gas Tax Relief and Earmark Moratorium Act would go a step further by shoring up the fundís projected shortfall for the coming fiscal year.
Ryanís earmark moratorium adheres to the reform efforts of Representatives Jack Kingston and Frank Wolf. The Kingston-Wolf proposal would conduct a full study of the broken practice of earmarking, bring greater transparency to these spending projects, and bar any new earmarks until the system is fixed. Ryanís one-year earmark moratorium would provide an estimated $14.8 billion of additional revenue, more than enough to provide Americans relief at the pump and replenish the Highway Trust Fund so that road repairs can continue.
As the price of gas continues to rise, consumers generate even less tax revenue as less miles are traveled and more move to fuel-efficient vehicles and mass transit. Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row, highlighting the need to find a more sustainable and effective way to fund highway construction and maintenance, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
The secretary said that Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. She added that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell 1.8 percent as compared with April 2007 travel. This marks a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November.
ìWeíre burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax,î Secretary Peters said.
The Secretary said as Americans drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund receives less revenue from gasoline and diesel sales ñ 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.
The Secretary noted that data show midsize SUV sales were down last month 38 percent over May of last year; car sales, which had accounted for less than half of the industry volume in 2007, rose to 57 percent in May. She said past trends have shown Americans will continue to drive despite high gas prices, but will drive more fuel efficient vehicles consuming less fuel. ìHistory shows that weíre going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further,î she said.
ìAs positive as any move toward greater fuel efficiency is, we need to make sure we have the kind of sustainable funding measures in place to support needed highway and transit improvements well into the future,î said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.
To review the FHWAís ìTraffic Volume Trendsî reports, including that of April 2008, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm.