More than a dozen Democrats on Thursday urged House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to hold hearings as soon as possible on the dwindling balance in the federal Highway Trust Fund and possible new funding options.
The highway account is where receipts from gas and diesel taxes, as well as excise taxes on truck and truck tire sales, are held to reimburse states for construction projects on the national highway system.
The two-year MAP-21 spending blueprint expires at the end of September and the $21.2 billion it authorized for the highway program will be gone.
"Our transportation programs will begin to feel the drop in funding this summer, when the Highway Trust Fund's available cash on hand is likely to fall below $4 billion, which is the minimum amount necessary to maintain a sufficient balance to meet week-to-week obligations. Below this amount, reimbursements to states will be delayed, construction projects will be curtailed, and jobs will be lost throughout the economy," ranking member Sander Levin of Michigan and his committee colleagues said in a letter to Camp
The HTF needs to be strengthened because maintaining an efficient highway system is critical to the economic recovery and job creation, the Democrats said.
Congress has propped up the HTF with more than $50 billion in general fund revenue in recent years, but infrastructure advocates worry that further ad hoc support may not be forthcoming under the current debt-reduction environment in Washington and that the highway system needs a reliable, long-term revenue source to supplement traditional sources of revenue, which are not keeping up with demand for maintenance and improvements because of inflation and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
In order to maintain current funding in the following years, the HTF will need almost $15 billion a year in addition to current gas tax receipts, the letter said. Continuing down the current path will mean a 30 percent drop in federal transportation spending by 2024.