By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
Resolving the chronic Highway Trust Fund (HTF) cash flow problem will “take bipartisan cooperation, a bipartisan solution and bipartisan political risk,” ARTBA Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Bill Toohey said at a June 16 news conference in the U.S. Capitol held by the Senate Democratic leadership. “It’s time for both parties,” he urged, “to work together for America to put this behind us.”
Toohey called on Congress to produce more than a four- to six-year funding patch. “We want a sustainable funding solution that puts this critical national program back on solid footing for the next decade.” Read his full statement.
At the news conference, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and eight other Senate Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to meet ambitious deadlines for enacting a long-term transportation bill before current Highway Trust Fund (HTF) authorization expires July 31.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released at the event, the Democrats urged hearings in authorizing committees by June 23; bipartisan mark-ups from those committees by July 10; and a long-term bill on the full Senate floor by July 20. “Despite the fact that the original HTF expiration date of May 31 was established 11 months ago, the Republican majority has yet to demonstrate progress in drafting bipartisan legislation or to hold one committee mark-up on a long-term transportation reauthorization bill,” the letter says.
The House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees are holding hearings this week to explore long-term funding options to improve the trust fund’s fiscal health.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said President Obama’s six-year, $478 billion highway/transit/rail reauthorization plan, called “GROW AMERICA,” could serve as the starting point for negotiations with Republicans.
Other Democratic senators speaking at the event were Richard Durbin (Ill.); Patty Murray (Wash.); Barbara Boxer (Calif.); Ron Wyden (Ore.); Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
“We want action. We want it now. We are not waiting until the eleventh hour,” Schumer said. “What is your [Republican] proposal?”