Senate may soon vote on $8 bln Highway Trust Fund patch

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Monday night urging members to pass a long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund.

The House passed H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, on July 15 by a vote of 312-119. The Senate may vote on a bill as early as Tuesday, transportation sources say. If the Senate passes the bill, the Highway Trust Fund would be bolstered by $8.1 billion and passage would prevent the fund from lapsing July 31.

The ARTBA letter was signed by 67 organizations and stakeholders including the Associated General Contractors of America, the American Trucking Associations and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. 

House Republicans favor a short-term extension while they work on an ambitious plan to tie international tax changes to a six-year highway-funding bill.

There likely will be a vote Tuesday afternoon in the Senate that should also indicate the length of the proposal, an ARTBA spokesperson told TI News Daily. While the House bill patches the fund until the end of the year, the Senate has not formally announced the length of the bill.

Congressman Lou Barletta, R.-Pa., voted against the bill and has been vocal in his opposition to short-term extensions for the Highway Trust Fund. He voted against the bill because it only funds transportation through Dec. 18, 2015 and he favors a long-term solution, according to a written statement from his press office.

“I am fully supportive of the federal role in transportation and I want our states and localities to have the funding they need to maintain roads, bridges, and infrastructure,” he said. “However, because Congress has been unable to agree on a sustainable long-term funding plan, I cannot in good conscience continue to support these Band-Aid fixes, which substitute for a lasting solution.”

Barletta said he favors an increase in the federal gas tax to fund transportation.

“I support the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, which increases the gas tax by a half-cent per gallon, and gives Congress a year and a half to find another revenue source. In the meantime, it provides funding for 10 years for transportation projects,” he said.

Paul Ryan, R–Wis., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Bill Shuster R–Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, sponsored the House measure. They have stated their goal is to save the trust fund to give Congress adequate time to pass a long-term transportation bill.