At the end of this month, states across the country will be forced to put road construction projects on hold if Congress cannot address the Highway Trust Fund. At risk are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction industry. A strong infrastructure is central to commerce and, at a time when millions of Americans are packing their bags to take a vacation, or just traveling to work – we must ensure that projects can be completed so that the roads, bridges, and highways they travel on are modernized and safe.
The bill before us today, H.R. 5021, will provide enough funding to get us through May 31, 2015, giving states the ability to complete transportation projects. This bill is the only package with all provisions having a proven history of getting big bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate. The three provisions – pension smoothing, customs user fees and leaking underground storage tanks – have all been used previously in bills that received strong bipartisan votes. Pension smoothing and LUST were included in the last bipartisan highway trust fund legislation. These are policies everyone is familiar with, they are policies that will provide the funding we need, and they are the only policies that will pass both the House and Senate in time to fund our highways after the end of this month.
A long-term solution would be my preference, and an important feature of my tax reform discussion draft would provide enough revenue to maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for eight years. In the meantime, I hope all Members of Congress can work on a longer-term solution by the end of May next year. This will not be an easy task, so it is important that Congress has time to have a deliberative, open debate about bipartisan solutions rather than trying to hit Americans, who are already paying more for gas, with a gas tax hike.
It is time to act now. State transportation departments have already started delaying or stopping certain highway projects to prepare for the fact that funding may fall short. Americans across the country deserve to see less gridlock on the roads and from their elected Representatives. These policies are straightforward, and have a history of bipartisan, bicameral support.
I am encouraged that the White House issued their support for the House highway bill, so we have an opportunity to solve this problem today. We also have strong industry support. In a letter to Congress from 62 organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the American Trucking Association and National Association of Manufacturers which stated, “A long-term federal commitment to prioritize and invest in our aging infrastructure and safety needs is essential to achieve this goal. Keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent is the first step.” A yes vote will avoid a last-minute crisis, fund important highway projects, and ensure that thousands of jobs are not at risk.