House passes highway bill as deadline looms

Congress finds $10.8 billion to keep transportation programs solvent through May 2015
Associated Press
Jul 15, 2014

With an August deadline looming, the House voted Tuesday to temporarily patch over a multibillion-dollar pothole in federal highway and transit programs while ducking the issue of how to put them on a sound financial footing for the long term.

The action cobbles together $10.8 billion by using pension tax changes, customs fees and money from a fund to repair leaking underground fuel storage tanks to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for transportation programs nationwide, solvent through May 2015. The vote was 367 to 55. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Without congressional action, the Transportation Department says that by the first week in August the fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states, and the government will begin to stretch out payments. Congress has kept the highway trust fund teetering on the edge of bankruptcy since 2008 through a series of temporary fixes because lawmakers have been unable to find a politically acceptable long-term funding plan.

The most obvious solution would be to raise the federal 18. 4 cents a gallon gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax, which haven't been increased in over 20 years. But lawmakers are reluctant to raise taxes in an election year — especially Republicans for whom a vote in favor of any tax increase could trigger a backlash from their party's base.

As a result, Congress has had to look elsewhere for transportation money while not increasing the federal deficit. The bill by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., relies on tax changes that are forecast to generate revenue over 10 years, but provide only enough money to keep the highway and transit programs going for another 10 months.

The largest chunk of the money, $6.4 billion, results from allowing employers to defer payments to their employee pension plans. Funding pension plans normally results in a tax savings for companies, and deferring those payments means they will pay more in taxes and increase federal revenue. But several lawmakers suggested the revenue from the pension changes is illusory.

"Come on, really, it's pretty phony stuff," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. "Let's get real about how we're going to fund our transportation" programs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the bill while acknowledging its limits. "Listen, these are difficult decisions in difficult times in an election year," he said. "The long-term problem is still there and needs to be addressed."

President Barack Obama, touring a transportation research center in Virginia, said he supports the House and Senate bills to keep aid flowing to states, but wants more.

"All this does is set us up for the same crisis a few months from now. So Congress shouldn't pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months," he said. Earlier this year, Obama offered a $302 billion plan to increase transportation spending and keep programs going for another four years. The plan, which was paid for by closing business tax loopholes, was received coolly by Republicans.

Democrats and some Republicans complained that it won't be any easier under the GOP bill to reach a compromise on sustainable, long-term means to pay for programs by pushing off a decision until next year when the presidential campaign is heating up. Republicans, however, may be in a better position to shape a transportation bill to their liking next year if they re-take control of the Senate in this fall's midterm elections.

Republicans are divided over transportation policy. A significant minority of the party's more conservative House members want to slash federal gas and diesel taxes, dramatically scale back transportation aid and leave it to states to come up with the money to pay for roads, bridges, buses and trains.

The conservative Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America, which are influential with Tea Party Republicans, urged lawmakers to vote against the Camp bill. But as a sop to conservatives, House GOP leaders allowed an amendment by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., that says Congress should "increase the authority and responsibility of the states" to fund and manage their transportation systems.

But Democrats said greater federal spending is needed to repair and replace the nation's aging infrastructure, meet the needs of a growing population and keep pace with other nations like China which are spending a greater share of their economies on transportation than the U.S.

States have been told to expect an average 28 percent reduction in aid if Congress doesn't act. The fund is expected to reach a zero balance by the end of August. Some states already have begun to delay or cancel construction projects due to the uncertainty of federal money.

The House defeated along party lines a motion by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., that would reduce the money in the bill to about $8 billion — just enough to pay for highway and transit aid through Dec. 31 — in the hope that another quick deadline would force Congress to come to an agreement on a long-term funding plan this year.

 

Comments

Dr. Information

"Republicans are divided over transportation policy. A significant minority of the party's more conservative House members want to slash federal gas and diesel taxes, dramatically scale back transportation aid and leave it to states to come up with the money to pay for roads, bridges, buses and trains."

BEST IDEA YET, but the Commies/Dems won't go for it. They like handouts from the top down.

jazzbo

...Were do you think the states are going to find the extra money , Repuppet head ?

Can you say " higher state taxes " ?

Still sound like " BEST IDEA YET " ?

Pete

Please explain how higher state taxes are any worse than higher federal taxes.

Dr. Information

At least with higher state taxes the money is being spent in OUR STATE.

Contango

Re: "leave it to states,"

Agreed.

The feds steal the money from the citizens of the states, take a handling charge (the bureaucrats don't work for free) and then send their own money back to them.

Cut out the middleman and save a few billion!

jazzbo

You'll have to pay MORE money to pay for the higher state taxes on top of the federal taxes then you'll have LESS money ???

Does that sound right or did I miss something?

Pete

Taxes are taxes. If it's deducted from a paycheck on the either the federal line or on the state line it is still taken from the gross wages. A dollar is a dollar.

The only difference is a state tax dollar goes further. If it's a federal tax dollar they absorb part of it in over paid bureaucrat salaries and pensions before sending it to the states. The states then consume part of that dollar feeding their bureaucracy.

Pushing taxes down to the level they are actually used in means more of that dollar actually goes where it is needed and not in government bloat.

jazzbo

So ? You still get to pay more taxes. Right ?

Pete

You lack comprehension skills I see.

Think on what I said. Or ask a neighbor.

jazzbo

I'll ask your mother , she's right here.

Bottom Line

She must be babysitting since you've proven time and again you're a child.

jazzbo

Then she would be going over to your house , clown boy.

Bottom Line

Oh good one. You that it was so clever that you changed your original response. A real Einstein you are!

jazzbo

...and you're a real jerk.

Bottom Line

Aww poor little guy fell off his tricycle... Me being a jerk is debatable. You being a fully incompetent moron isn't.

jazzbo

Sorry , Bottom Feeder ,

The jury has reached its verdict....you are a jerk.

jazzbo

" You that it was so clever that you changed your original response. A real Einstein you are!"

-- You should have changed your original response.

" You that it was..." ?

PS

Talk like a child , think like a child.

sugar

Honestly I have no idea why the Register puts up with the idiocy posted by you jazzbo and your friends dog and deer. Your posts are nonsensical, pointless and foolish. You have nothing to offer, no insight, no understanding nothing but childish insults.

Bottom Line

Because the managing editor of this paper is their equal.

jazzbo

sugar-

The Register puts up with YOUR lame brain posts .

You and your friend Bottom Licker don't appear to be very intelligent.

thinkagain

The SR should at least post a warning, that reading their comments may have the adverse effect of lowering one’s IQ level.

Gottathink

Yes, still paying more taxes.
But it's who you are paying to that counts.

Think about it.

Its gonna happen, as it should, so make a good choice about it ...would you like your "tax money" put in to a pool with the other 49 states? Or would you like to keep it in Ohio and let Ohio decide how to use the revenue from this increase in taxes?

jazzbo

Gottathink-

The article says :

"States have been told to expect an average 28 percent reduction in aid if Congress doesn't act."

--States will have a 28 percent loss in money from the Feds , to help pay for repairing our infrastructure.
Where is Ohio going to find the money to replace that gap ?
By raising taxes or what ?

The Big Dog's back

So now you right wingnuts are OK with paying more taxes? What???? Really???

Dr. Information

I don't mind my state taxes going up a bit, its money kept in OUR STATE. I have a huge problem paying more federal taxes.

The Big Dog's back

Your Federal taxes have gone down.

Dr. Information

No, they haven't.

Donegan

Congress has to "Find" 10 billion to keep our infrastructure from completely falling apart meanwhile The fed has just printed another 65 billion to buy troubled assets from wall street.
If you haven't figured it out yet this government cares nothing for its citizens. Yes even your god doesn't care Jazzbo.

jazzbo

I can always count on a ignorant snarky remark from you.

I would like to know :

Who is your god ?
Who do you have who could lead this nation ?

JudgeMeNot

Your momma.

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