ARTBA Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Bill Toohey.
By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
For the second time in less than 24 hours, ARTBA Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Bill Toohey hammered home the message that it’s time for Congress to resolve the chronic Highway Trust Fund (HTF) cash flow problem.
“We want a solution that puts this critical national program back on solid financial footing for at least the next decade,” Toohey said during a Capitol Hill press event June 17 with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and other transportation leaders in support of Blumenauer’s proposal to increase the federal motor fuels user fee.
Toohey emphasized that an adjustment to the fuels tax rate is the only sustainable funding proposal that has yet been put forward. It is the only one, he said, that would ensure there is no precipitous funding drop when the next long-term program reauthorization ends. Without such a solution, he pointed out, the federal highway and transit program would again face an annual funding cliff of $16 billion or more.
“Anyone who thinks it will be any easier to find loose change under the cushions for this program in four to six years from now than it is today has been spending too much time in Colorado,” Toohey said. “Congressman Blumenauer’s proposal meets our goal. But it is going to take bipartisan cooperation and shared bipartisan political risk to get the job done.”
Blumenauer said Congress has been “indifferent at best, negligent at worst,” for its failure to fund long-term transportation infrastructure investment. He pointed out that the coalition in support of a sustainable long-term Highway Trust Fund fix is broader and larger than that for “any other issue before the Congress.”
The event was held an hour before the House Ways & Means Committee convened a hearing to explore long-term funding options to improve the trust fund’s fiscal health. The Senate Finance Committee holds a similar hearing June 18.