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New House Members Get Transportation Insolvency 101 Lesson
Oliver Patton reports on a hearing of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held on July 23 on the dire status and outlook of the Highway Trust Fund, and what to do about it. The guest speakers were:
- Polly Trottenberg, under secretary for policy at the Department of Transportation and former executive director of Building America’s Future
- Mr. Kim Cawley, chief of the natural and physical resources cost estimates unit at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office
Patton writes, "The situation is well understood by senior members of the committee but newer members need some catching-up", which became apparent by some statements made after the presentation.
Cawley told (PDF) the committee that Congress has three choices to preserve the fund in fiscal year 2015 [that begins on Oct. 1, 2014].
- Eliminate all highway and mass transit spending in 2015
- Raise the tax on motor fuels by about 10 cents per gallon
- Transfer about $15 billion from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Utica, N.Y. made "the case for using the General Fund rather than the HTF to pay for infrastructure" on account of the fact that "funding highways with user taxes is becoming archaic because more people live in cities and use mass transit". Trottenberg replied, "In some ways, we're already there". Patton explains: "Since 2008 Congress has taken $41 billion out of general revenues for the highway fund, and an additional transfer of $12.6 billion is scheduled for next year."
David Tanner of Land Line writes that the prognosis for implementing a Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) Fee prognosis is not good. "I think in Washington there doesn’t appear to be any appetite for it whatsoever,” said Trottenberg. "Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both asked about VMT. During an exchange with Davis, Trottenberg said there was currently 'no movement' in Washington to pursue a national VMT tax."
In response to queries about the new Oregon law, "Trottenberg said Oregon’s VMT program will not likely find its way to a national stage."