One way or the other, Congress must plug a $20 billion hole in the Highway Trust Fund before it dries up.
The fund is the primary source of money for the nation’s major highway construction projects, including several in Ohio.
The Interstate 75 widening project, for example, has been approved and is to start this year. But construction could be delayed if the trust fund goes bankrupt in August, as some are predicting.
The fund has been kept afloat with the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline, but construction expenses have been outpacing receipts as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and people drive less due to rising fuel prices. Lawmakers must find an extra $100 billion to cover federal highway costs over the next six years, in addition to the approximately $34 billion per year brought in by the gas tax….
The easiest fix would be to increase the gas tax, which hasn’t been changed since 1993. Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Trucking Association, among others, support the idea, and House Democrats have introduced a bill to gradually increase it to 33 cents per gallon. But Republicans are opposed to raising the tax, and it appears it has little chance of passage, especially in an election year….
The most likely scenario will be for lawmakers to transfer money from other areas of the federal budget, like they did in 2012 to make up for a shortage….
Election year or not, Congress must find a way to keep that from happening.
— The (Findlay) Courier