Thursday, July 17, 2008

Senate struggles with Highway Trust Fund fix

The US Senate is scrambling to shore up the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which is tanking because of drop of gas tax revenue attributable to a drop in driving.

The ethically-challenged Charles Rangel is trying to push through a plan to transfer $8 billion from general US Department of Transportation funds to the highway trust fund.

But, as noted in The Hill, "several attempts to get the $8 billion transfer passed into law in recent weeks, however, have failed."

Last week Senate appropriators easily passed a fiscal 2009 transportation and housing spending bill that included language preventing the federal highway account from going into debt next year.

Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the $8 billion transfer would prevent a 34 percent cut in spending for highway projects.

But any attempt to fix the shortfall through spending bills is unreliable. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said only two appropriations bills will be completed this year and the rest — including the transportation and housing bill — will be rolled into a continuing resolution lasting into next year.

And while an $8 billion transfer may be a (very) short-term fix, what comes next? Higher gas taxes for people already struggling to fill their tanks?

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