The Highway Bill funding crisis has been avoided, for now. The transportation spending fund also known as the highway trust fund was set to go bankrupt this August. The Band-Aid approach of patching together extension after extension to keep the fund solvent has been Congressís method of operation since 2008.
The House of Representatives passed an extension to the fund that passed the House 367-55. The bipartisan measure is expected to be voted on in the Senate next week and is likely to pass. This temporary fix will last until May of 2015 and cost $10.8 billion.
What the quick fix fails to address is the main, underling problem with the highway trust fund, it does not raise enough money. The fund relies on a gas tax that has not been raised since 1993. Trying to operate and maintain a national transportation infrastructure in 2014 with 1993 type spending power is a lesson in disaster.
Some in Congress do want to raise the gas tax to an appropriate amount. Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) have a proposal that would boost the funding and restore the purchasing power to the trust fund. Their proposal is reasonable, it would raise the gas tax this year by six cents and then another six cents the following year. After that the gas tax would be indexed for inflation to ensure that the trust fund remain stable.
That proposal was pretty much dead on arrival. With an election around the corner most of Congress is reluctant to vote for a tax hike that would be felt by nearly every single voter. But it makes sense to increase the user fee for a system that needs heavy repair. Most Americans don't want to pay more for something like fuel that is already over priced in the opinion of many. But it is likely that those same Americans are not happy with their roads and bridges so increasing a user fee that has not changed for 20 plus years makes a little more sense.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation will keep you updated on this issue.
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