In early August, Congress sent to President Obama a stopgap highway funding extension that will keep construction projects running into next year. The 81-13 vote in the Senate came hours after the House voted 272-150 to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, bringing a weeklong cross-Capitol standoff to a close. The legislation (HR 5021) extends federal transportation programs through May 31, 2015, not the mid-December date that had been preferred by the Senate. It also uses a controversial financial technique called ‘pension smoothing’ to help create sufficient revenues.
Although it is important that this temporary fix was passed and Highway Trust Fund payments will not be disrupted, real significant work lies ahead to address a long-term sustainably financial fix for the Highway Trust Fund. Some in the Washington policy community want Congress to reverse its usual course and first address a revenue solution and then put together an authorization bill. For many years now, it has been the other way around and increasingly that plan has not worked.
Pledges are being made by legislators to tackle the underlying funding issues this fall. The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, through and with our partners the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, will remain active pushing for a long-term financial fix. Our work on revenue solutions will be ramping up as we begin the fall, pre-election session at both the federal and state levels. The U.S. Chamber is weighing-in, as well, with solutions that are consistent with the Coalition’s recommendations, including a recent statement from Tom Donohue featured in the Weekly Standard.