The U.S. House adopted controversial Republican-backed rule changes last month that 21 transportation and business groups argue will devastate transportation funding programs by shifting its national gas tax funding to other non-infrastructure projects.
Under the new process, legislation that increases mandatory spending over a specified period also will have to include provisions that cut spending by at least an equal amount elsewhere.
Transportation infrastructure supporters, including state DOTs, the Associated General Contractors of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), vigorously oppose the move.
“We are disappointed that House Republicans voted to rescind a guarantee that Highway Trust Fund revenues would be spent to fund the critical highway and transit programs that millions of Americans rely on every day,” says AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley. “There are two deficits facing the country today — the federal debt and the deficit in maintaining the infrastructure on which economic recovery depends. In their zeal to address the first issue, the new House leadership has taken action that deepens the second.”
The now-former rules were adopted in 1998 to ensure that lawmakers appropriated enough transportation funding at the level set forth in authorization legislation. Prior abuse of the trust fund allowed surpluses to build up, allowing lawmakers to use that money elsewhere rather than on long-needed infrastructure improvements.
U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-W.V.), top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, criticized the changes.
“Americans understand, and support, paying motor fuel taxes at the pump so long as they are guaranteed that those funds will be spent on transportation,” Rahall says. “The Republican Rules package smudges that guarantee and will have a potentially devastating effect on the level of Federal investment in vital highway and transit programs.”