The House of Representatives is preparing to act on an extension of highway and transit policy and funding through May 31, 2015, after Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced legislation late Tuesday. The bill, H.R. 5021, proposes a General Fund transfer into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which would be mostly paid for by customs user fees in 2024 and changes to pension accounting. H.R. 5021 also proposes a one-time transfer into the HTF of $1 billion from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, which is used for environmental cleanup purposes. Chairman Camp plans to mark up the legislation in committee on July 10, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated today the bill will be on the full House floor the week of July 14.
Rep. Camp took a direct shot at senators who have been pushing for a HTF patch that would only last through the end of 2014, saying, “Likewise, any effort that just goes to the end of this year will only lead to another backroom deal during the lame-duck session where only a very few Members are present or have any say in the matter. I’ve been in that room enough, and it is time for the committees and the entire House and Senate to have the full influence they deserve. What troubles me most about a December 31, 2014, date are those using it as a ploy to stick the American people with a massive increase in the gas tax – just about the worst tax increase Congress could hit hardworking Americans with.”
Negotiations between Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on a similar piece of legislation have been ongoing since last month. Wyden’s original plan had been to take up a bill that would have extended funding for the HTF programs through 2014. However, some have suggested the negotiations may ultimately end up with a HTF that could be extended beyond December 31. The Senate may still act at the committeelevel as early as this week, setting up potentially dueling bills moving through the House and Senate.
As has been widely reported, the U.S. Department of Transportation expects the HTF to run a cash balance near zero sometime towards the end of August. Without additional revenues being deposited into the HTF before Congress leaves for the August district work period, the Federal Highway Administration will begin to slow reimbursement payments to states for federally approved and completed highway work.
These developments provide a timely opportunity for you to weigh in with your members of Congress through the toll-free ARTBA Action Hotline at 888-448-2782. The message is simple. Tell them to keep the funds flowing to the states with a short-term HTF patch before the August break, and then enact a long-term revenue solution for the HTF before the end of 2014.