Below is the latest from Metro’s government relations staff on the ongoing tussle between the House of Representatives and the Senate on keeping the federal Highway Trust Fund funded for the new few months. The news is not good:
U.S. House of Representatives Sends Highway Trust Fund Extension Bill Back to the U.S. Senate
Moments ago, the United States House of Representatives voted (272-150) to reject the U.S. Senate amended bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund and extend authorization and appropriations for highway and transit programs. On July 15, 2014, the House passed H.R. 5021 that extended funding and programs until May 31, 2015. This past Tuesday, the Senate amended the House bill by shortening the extension until December 19, 2014 forcing Congress to deal with a long term surface transportation reauthorization bill and funding this year. With the House rejecting the Senate amended bill and members leaving Washington tonight for a five week recess, the Senate must now decide to pass the House version of H.R. 5021 by tomorrow. If the Senate does not act, the Department of Transportation will implement cash management procedures to distribute less than full transportation funding payments to states. Metro’s Government Relations staff will continue to provide updates on the status of Congress’ actions regarding transportation programs and funding.
Why does this matter? Here’s a staff reporting explaining how Metro could suffer if funds from the Highway Trust Fund to Metro would eventually slow down or be halted. It’s not good: potential long-range impacts — emphasis on ‘long-range’ — could result in service cuts, delays to maintenance projects and delaying capital projects.
The Highway Trust Fund gets its money from the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.3 cents and hasn’t been raised since 1993. Congress has been reluctant over the years to raise the tax or index it to inflation and there’s no majority view of other alternatives to keep the Highway Trust Fund in the black now that vehicles are more fuel efficient and tax revenues are down.