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FUNDING: Congress finally acts to save highway funding

ARTBA: No reason to celebrate

Funding News Various sources August 01, 2014
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The Senate voted last night to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through next spring and then ran for the exits for a recess. The vote on the highway bill was 81 to 13.
 
“We once had leaders, and you know what those leaders used to do?” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked before the final Senate votes on the highway funding bill and a veterans’ health care bill, according to The New York Times. “They’d say, ‘We’re going to take up legislation, and we’re going to work through it.’ For 30 years, that’s how I’ve watched the United States Senate function.”
 
The Senate gave in to the House’s demand for an $11 billion financing maneuver, known as “pension smoothing,” to avoid tax increases. Under pension smoothing, corporations can set aside less money for pensions, a trick that will increase profits and raise business tax receipts.
 
“The highway bill is good news-bad news,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). “The good news is, we did something. The bad news is, it was the 11th punt in the last six years and showed an inability to face a real problem and deal with it.”
 
"The good news is that Congress has avoided bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx responded to the Senate’s vote in a statement. “The bad news is that there is still no long-term certainty, and this latest Band-Aid expires right as the next construction season begins.”
 
“We commend the House and Senate for preserving the continuity of federal highway and transit funding to the states with a short-term revenue patch,” was the response of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “That, no doubt, temporarily saved many Americans their jobs. We want to be clear, however, that we find no reason for anyone to celebrate what amounts to a last-minute first-down pass.
 
“It is incumbent on the Congress to now focus full-bore on the end zone—enacting a long-term, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund before the end of this year. That will allow the Congress to then focus on developing and passing a long-term surface transportation program reauthorization bill before the eight-month May extension deadline that was just set expires. There is no reason why a funding solution needs to wait for a reauthorization bill. That’s putting the cart before the horse.
 
“Otherwise, we’ll no doubt see a repeat of this same process next spring with yet another package of budget gimmicks while the 2015 construction season hangs in the balance.
 
“Americans deserve better than this on a core responsibility of the federal government.”

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