All Republican members of the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee last week voted for legislation approved by their respective committee to generate $10.8 billion in additional Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues to keep federal highway and transit funds flowing to the state. This widespread support occurred despite criticism of efforts to stabilize the trust fund from prominent conservative groups, such as The Club for Growth and Heritage Action.
In an attempt to discredit the consequences of failing to head off the trust fund’s revenue shortfall, Heritage Action July 2 produced an erroneous analysis that claimed leaving a trust fund shut down would only result in seven percent reduction in highway investment. The group derived that figure by mistakenly applying a U.S. Department of Transportation calculation of the short-term impact of a slowdown in reimbursements during August and September to total highway spending when federal funds can only be used for capital purposes. Heritage also failed to recognize the difference between a two-month slowdown in reimbursements and the complete shutdown in new highway and transit spending that would occur on October 1 without congressional action. Meanwhile, the Club for Growth had urged lawmakers to not patch the trust fund, but rather devolve the federal highway program to the states.
Neither Heritage Action nor The Club for Growth was mentioned during the Ways & Means and Finance Committees session. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says the House proposal to stabilize the HTF will be acted in his chamber this week.
The Senate is expected to act on its version of the proposal following House passage.