This Wednesday saw the U.S. Senate approval of a two year $109 billion transportation and infrastructure bill. Now the ball is in the House Republicans court.
The federal highway trust fund is set to expire at the end of March. The United States Highway Trust Fund is a transportation fund which receives money from federal fuel tax, about 18 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel fuel and related excise taxes.The trust currently has three accounts, the Highway Account which funds road construction, ‘Mass Transit Account’ which supports mass transit and ‘Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund’ which patches up leaks to underground fuel storage tanks. The trust was established 1956 to finance the United States Interstate Highway System with additional trusts funds made in1982.
If you drive around the crumbling highway system of American you just might be wondering where that money is actually going.
All cynicism aside, this is a big deal on the job front. An estimated 3 million jobs will be created or saved with the fund renewed. These jobs will be mainly construction jobs, an industry that has been hit hard by state and federal budget cuts and the American housing crisis that is still in full swing.
The bill consolidates 196 federal transportation programs into about a dozen. This consolidation gives more flexibility to the states to decide transportation priorities – in other words this is not big government telling people what to do, its state government. The duration of the bill is two years. This is a short time frame for a bill and the reason being because of the difficulty in paying for the bill programs—funds come from gasoline tax revenues and gas tax revenues are on the decline for a number of reasons.
Because of the bills short time frame, opponents of the Senate bill have labeled it a band aid, a short term fix to a much larger problem that needs to be addressed. The funny thing is that President Obama had pressed for an overall infrastructural spending effort, not a band aid but a program that would fix America’s aging highways system, provide jobs, and boost the economy. However, the House Republicans were not pleased with that either and countered the President’s proposal with a plan to cut 35% of all transportation spending.
This left the Senate with the option of raising the federal gas tax, something they could not do as gas prices climb to $4.00 a gallon. Or they could come up with the Senate passed consolidation bill that taps into a trust fund established to clean up leaking underground storage tanks.
To get a feeling of where the current American economy is and how broken the American system of government is, one has to look no further than this bill, a bill that would provide jobs and repairs to our crumbling infrastructure, a bill that has almost no chance of passing through Congress.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison