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Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation

6/2/2014



Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

GOP proposal to use Postal Service funds to bolster Highway Trust Fund a 'nonstarter,' opponents say


A proposal by House Republican leaders to shore up the depleted Highway Trust Fund by shifting funds from the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service drew fire from Democratic lawmakers over the weekend.

In a memo to House Republican caucus members on Friday, House Republican leaders outlined a plan to eliminate Saturday mail service and shift those dollars to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat through May 2015 while they pursue a longer term solution to funding transportation infrastructure.

"We firmly believe that this is the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner that implements a needed structural reform to a growing federal liability,” wrote House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor of (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The Highway Trust Fund, which is funded primarily by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, is scheduled to run out of money as early as July. The gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993.

Democrats blasted the GOP plan.

"This idea is a jobs killer which does not even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long enough period of time to provide the certainty that states, cities and businesses need," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which last month unanimously passed a six-year bill that would fund transportation programs at current levels plus inflation. "It is unworkable, makes no sense, and ignores the huge infrastructure needs we face, as so many bridges and roads are in grave disrepair."

Added U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure: "This proposal from House Republican Leadership is a nonstarter. It kicks the can down the road yet again on two pressing issues — fixing the Postal Service and the Highway Trust Fund — and fails to solve either problem. The hard truth is that moving to a five-day delivery schedule isn’t enough on its own to save the Highway Trust Fund or the U.S. Postal Service."

Meanwhile, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) board last week passed a resolution calling on Congress to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund this summer, before the Federal Highway Administration starts delaying reimbursements to states for transportation work under way.

"We encourage Congress to address the short-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, but there also are long-term funding and policy issues that need addressed," said AASHTO President Mike Hancock, who also serves as secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. "AASHTO and its member states remain committed to working with Congress on a long-term reauthorization bill."



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