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February 11, 2016

Ahead of Obama Bridge Visit, DOT Warns States Highway Trust Fund Checks Will Slow

With President Barack Obama set to speak later in the day in front of the Key Bridge, his Transportation secretary is warning states checks will slow if Congress doesn’t patch the hole in the Highway Trust Fund soon.

In letters to state transportation officials and transit agencies, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sets forth protocols for managing the shortfall, which at the outset will particularly affect the states.

“As I stated in my June 19 letter, the Department will continue to take every possible measure to fully reimburse your State for as long as we can. However, as we approach insolvency, the Department will be forced to limit payments to manage the reduced levels of cash available in the Trust Fund,” Foxx wrote in the letter to state transportation departments.

“This means, among other things, that the Federal Highway Administration will no longer make ‘same-day’ payments to reimburse States,” he added.

The situation with public transit agencies may be less dire in the immediate term, with Foxx saying the critical shortfall in the separate pool of money known as the mass transit account isn’t expected to hit until October.

“I urge you to stand with me in calling on Congress to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund while committing itself to a sound, bipartisan, and long-term solution that will ensure the stability of the surface transportation system of our Nation for the next several years,” Foxx wrote in both letters.

Obama’s event Tuesday on the Georgetown waterfront with the Key Bridge in the background may feature a lot of familiar rhetoric from past transportation events, including his 2011 appearance at the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Ohio and Kentucky.

“Ahead of the July 4th holiday — and with this historic bridge as his backdrop — the President will make clear that by closing unfair tax loopholes for companies that ship profits overseas, we can invest in rebuilding our infrastructure, which will continue to create jobs and grow our economy,” a White House official said in a statement Monday previewing the Key Bridge appearance.

The tax provisions often identified by Democrats as being ripe for eliminating or revising have proven unpopular with Republicans time and time again, with many derided as tax hikes. A stopgap solution to provide the roughly $9 billion senators are seeking to address the short-term shortfall will likely include some tax compliance provisions and other adjustments, but not the closing of what Democrats refer to as loopholes.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota made that point during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that aired on Sunday.

“There’s probably something that could be found that would be middle ground, and if there are tax compliance issues that don’t represent new taxes, and some spending reforms that would get you to a place that you might be able to come up with the necessary shortfall and cover it. … I think that’s a solution that’s out there,” Thune said.

Thune’s comments were recorded just before a highway funding markup of the Senate Finance Committee, of which he is a member.

Before departing for the July Fourth recess, the panel started the markup that would offset the Highway Trust Fund shortfall, deferring further action until after the break as negotiations continue between Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and other members of the committee.

Wyden modified his original proposal to remove an increase in heavy vehicle use taxes and add a transfer from the leaking underground fuel tanks.

  • left wing

    quit stealing from the highway trust fund and it will have money.

  • A Semper Fi Marine

    “O” Does NOTHING unless there is a political angle. Remember the stories recently about wanting to RAISE the GAS TAX, to pay for an Infrastructure that we are already paying out the nose for, but is WAY to TOP heavy? Yeah – REMEMBER This Posting when the story comes out again, right after this “Bridge” Visit Press Gaggle.

    Just my Take IMHO

  • CCR

    federal gas tax should go up to adjust for inflation. it was 18 cents in 1993, and is still 18 cents.

  • Elly

    I hate being blackmailed!

  • A Semper Fi Marine

    It STILL remains a percent of dollars sold. The government mandates improved fuel economy and the country changes both driving habits and purchases of fuel saving vehicles, THEN we’re told there isn’t enough money coming in to fix the roads – DUH! Anyway, there shouldn’t be an increase until an accounting of spending is released. IF – they are spending WISELY and the Infrastructure needs updated ((Which I agree), THEN consider increasing.

  • Bob Munck

    The government mandates improved fuel economy and the country changes both driving habits and purchases of fuel saving vehicles, THEN we’re told there isn’t enough money coming in to fix the roads – DUH!

    People getting better gas mileage are paying LESS gasoline taxes, but they’re still using the roads as much as they were before — they should be paying the same tax for those roads that they were before.

  • ShadrachSmith

    They are driving lighter cars less. I see a decrease in usage.

  • ShadrachSmith

    I watched Reagan solve problems.
    I watch Obama whine about some new thing every darn week. But I never see Obama make things better.

  • Bob Munck

    They are driving lighter cars less.

    Not necessarily lighter; that’s only one way to increase gas mileage. If they’re driving less, the new taxes will also be proportionally less.

    The alternative to using amount of gas burned as a rough indicator of miles driven is to install a black box that monitors and reports mileage using GPS or the odometer. That’s not a desirable solution.

  • A Semper Fi Marine

    Again – IF an Audit reflects the existing funds are being properly used and there is definitely the need, by all means raise the Tax, BUT – I KNOW FOR FACT the Transportation Kitty is being ROBBED and the Money is used in other areas of Gov’t. The weakness is in the way the Congress passes Tax Bills – there is NOTHING in the Transportation Bill that Mandates the money received be spent JUST for Infrastructure, it’s allowed to go in to the General Fund and can be used for Social Welfare Programs – THAT’s What’s WRONG.

  • Always Vigilant

    Although merit can’t replace utility for making market decisions in a free country, we must recognize military merit in liberty’s defense.

  • CCR

    Don’t you get it. If it were a tax based on a percentage of the price of gas, we wouldn’t have this problem. In 1993 gas was like $1.20/gal –> 18 cents taxed. In 2014 it’s about $3.55/gal –> 18 cents taxed. If we paid a percentage, it would be 53 cents by now.

  • A Semper Fi Marine

    I DO “Get It” – and as long as the $$$ is being spent appropriately – and JUST on Transportation projects and they STILL come up short – increase the Tax – BUT – if the money is being spent on “other” projects, or Bridges to nowhere – NO INCREASE – it’s ALL I’m sayin

  • saludadrifter

    This conversation and the comments are really nonsense. This is just like Social Security. The problem arises from politicians promising more benefits from the “trust fund” than the revenue flowing into the trust fund will support. There is no “insolvency” issue here, there is a political issue that like most others comes from having lost the republic to this bunch of buffoons who won’t stop spending and wont raise taxes.

  • Hans Ohff

    I think most people now recognize that Hussein Obama is a delusional marxist who intentionally sows the seeds of chaos to consolidate his own power.

  • Bruno’s Beach

    Since science traces today’s events to yesterday, it can lead to the notion that our actions are not of our own control or responsibility.

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