Despite being hit with flood of phone calls from those in the road and bridge industry that wanted to continue to protect the Highway Trust Fund, House Republicans decided on Jan. 4 that they will move forward with a proposed set of rule changes.
Under the revisions, The Highway Trust Fund would lose the armor that was provided following the passage of TEA-21, as lawmakers will be able to treat the account as if it was a part of the general fund. Not only would it be subject to spending reductions, but also all revenues designated for the Highway Trust Fund would no longer be guaranteed to go towards transportation-related projects. TEA-21 prohibited any such political tampering.
“Thirteen years ago, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike voted overwhelmingly to provide budgetary guarantees that ensured all federal gas and diesel tax user fee revenue collected for the Highway Trust Fund would be invested exclusively and in a timely manner in state highway, bridge and transit improvements,” said American Road & Transportation Builders Association President Pete Ruane in a statement. “Today, House Republicans behind closed doors, in a secret ballot, unilaterally rescinded those guarantees as part of their new House rules package. This is a reversion back to the budget gimmicks of the past that allows the Highway Trust Fund balance to be used to hide the true size of the federal deficit.
“The real-life implication of this action is that it injects further uncertainty into the already reeling U.S. transportation construction market where unemployment is in excess of 18%—twice the national average. Long-term transportation plans and projects require stable, predictable funding. With multiyear reauthorization of the federal highway and transit programs now more than 15 months overdue, this sends the wrong signal to the states and Wall Street.”
All future bills also would be made available to the public online three days before a vote.
“The days of quickly ramming massive bills through Congress are over,” blogged Don Seymour, a spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner.