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Trust fund rescue has wide support

Sept. 8, 2008
According to the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, failure to pass H.R. 6532 to transfer $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund would result in the loss of nearly 400,000 construction jobs and would prevent the completion of more than $14 billion in necessary infrastructure projects

According to the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, failure to pass H.R. 6532 to transfer $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund would result in the loss of nearly 400,000 construction jobs and would prevent the completion of more than $14 billion in necessary infrastructure projects.

Dept. of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Friday that while H.R. 6532--introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel, (D-NY)—won’t answer the question of future solvency, it is necessary to pump up a fund that could possibly be broke by the end of this month.

Passage of the bill by the Senate seems likely. It had bipartisan support in the House—where it passed by a 387 to 37 vote--and President Bush has withdrawn a threat to veto it. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has called for the Senate to pass the bill without delay.

“It's about time this Administration accepted the magnitude of the looming crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund and stopped being a roadblock to a solution,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. “The House has long been aware of this impending problem and acted to combat it by passing legislation to add $8 billion in general funds to the Highway Trust Fund earlier this summer. Unfortunately, this measure has been held up by irresponsible veto threats by the Administration and has not yet become law.”

“We anticipated solvency problems with the Trust Fund, but those problems have materialized much sooner than expected,” said Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Minority Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “To address this issue, the Senate must act immediately to pass the Highway Trust Fund Restoration Act, which the House overwhelmingly passed in July. Unless we act now, each state’s highway programs will experience severe disruptions and thousands of highway projects may be delayed or cancelled.”

According to Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure statistics, not passing H.R. 6532 would result in the loss of 379,537 construction jobs, and cause a shortfall of more than $14 billion in projected 2009 fiscal year expenditures.

“I fear that States will begin to slow their investments in highway construction because of the cash flow problems of the U.S. Department of Transportation,” said Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Given that the United States has lost more than 600,000 jobs this year and the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in five years, we cannot afford to lose one more family-wage construction job.”

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said it was encouraged by the announcement that the Bush Administration will support the legislation. The trucking lobby added that the U.S. must invest in its infrastructure to ease congestion, alleviate bottlenecks and repair existing roads to ensure the movement of freight.

“Now that Secretary Peters has announced the withdrawal of a veto threat over the Highway Trust Fund emergency funding legislation, I urge Congress to act as quickly as possible to authorize the transfer of these critical funds,” said ATA president & CEO Bill Graves. “The stark reality facing our nation is that we have neglected our infrastructure for far too long and the bill is coming due. Current revenue streams are failing to keep pace with infrastructure need.”

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) echoed that sentiment. "Unless Congress acts quickly to fix this shortfall, highway contractors will be forced to lay off workers at the peak of the construction season," said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of AGC. "Significant layoffs in the construction industry coupled with today's disappointing unemployment numbers should be of grave concern to anyone running for President or Congress this year.”

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Justin Carretta

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