Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 1, 2014

Prospects for Highway Trust Fund Deal Brighter After Wyden Alters Revenue Package

After a sour reaction from Republicans to Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden’s first proposal to bolster the Highway Trust Fund, prospects for a deal looked better Thursday after the Oregon Democrat offered a modified plan that dropped his idea of raising heavy vehicle use taxes by $1.3 billion.

Wyden’s revised plan also added a provision that would shift to the highway trust fund $750 million from a fund intended to deal with leaking underground fuel tanks, CQ’s Joanna Anderson reported.

The Finance panel’s markup of Wyden’s bill will take place the week of July 7. The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that Wyden’s revised package would raise $7.6 billion over the next 10 years.

On Tuesday the Congressional Budget Office told Wyden in a letter that “additional revenues of about $8 billion would be needed for the Highway Trust Fund to meet all the obligations that are likely to be presented to the fund during the remainder of calendar year 2014 while maintaining the minimum cash balance” that the Department of Transportation requires to manage the fund.

Utah’s Orrin G. Hatch, ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a statement that finding a solution to Highway Trust Fund shortfall would require working with House Republicans. He said was pleased the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp “has agreed to work with us on this endeavor, and I am confident we can find a path forward.”

But some Finance Committee Republicans are still seeking cuts in transportation spending. Sen. Pat Toomey, R – Pa., said “It is hard to support looking for additional revenue from the American people if we’re not doing something about the unnecessary spending that is embedded in this.”

He cited the Transportation Alternatives Program which authorizes spending “well over $8 billion over 10 years… for items like bike paths, trails, beautification projects.” This included a $180,000 grant to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. which Toomey called unnecessary.

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