Obama prepares to send $302 billion highway bill to Congress, but will it be enough?

|  April 24, 2014 |

Barack Obama speakingPresident Barack Obama is preparing to present his proposed $302 billion, four-year transportation reauthorization bill to Congress.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on the DOT’s Fast Lane blog that the president plans to send a draft of the legislation to lawmakers, though no specific timetable has been presented.

“Soon, the Obama Administration will do exactly what the President promised in St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier this year: present Congress with a surface transportation reauthorization proposal,” Foxx wrote. “This bill will support millions of American jobs repairing and modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, and transit systems. And it will pave the way forward by increasing access to the ladders of opportunity that help Americans get ahead.”

During a road tour stop in Birmingham, Alabama, last week, Foxx said President Obama’s proposal could solve transportation funding problems, including the nearly-insolvent Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is expected to run out of money by the end of August.

The DOT chief has pointed out that an insolvent HTF would delay or halt projects in every state, costing hundreds of jobs.

However, recent data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that the HTF, which is funded by an 18.4-cent-per gallon gas tax that has remained unchanged for 20 years, would still go bankrupt under the president’s proposed budget.

In addition to allocating funds to various transportation sectors, the bill offers a one-time $150 billion cash infusion. However, the CBO says that is not enough. The report points out that the DOT “needs at least $4 billion in cash balances available in the highway account” to keep up with infrastructure obligations. The CBO’s data show that the highway account would start 2015 with a balance of only $1 billion.

 

Both the House and Senate are also working on solutions. Earlier this month, the House GOP introduced its $1.014 trillion budget, which aims to maintain HTF solvency, while four top transportation senators have unveiled Senate priorities for a new surface transportation bill.

 

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