Lawmakers in D.C. have to act fast if they want to save The U.S. Highway Trust Fund according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The fund is expected to run dry in August, and at risk are more than 700,000 jobs, the stoppage of close to 112,000 projects, and of course the crippling of our nation’s already-crumbling infrastructure.
The U.S. Highway Trust Fund was established in the 1950s with the goal of financing the U.S. Interstate System and maintaining that system. The money for the U.S. Highway Trust Fund comes from 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel and other related excise taxes. The Federal government hasn’t raised the gas tax since the early 1990s.
As cars have become more fuel efficient and politicians have been stifled from raising gasoline taxes,the Trust Fund has suffered a severe lack of funding. As it stands right now, the Highway Trust Fund is on track to drop below $4 billion by July, and below $1 billion somewhere between August and October. That’s very bad news for America’s already aging infrastructure and the 700,000 jobs connected to the U.S. Highway Trust Fund.
This is a big problem, and even more so a sign of our rapidly forward moving times. As more fuel efficient cars hit America’s highways, the government was slow to react with an incremental raising of the gas tax, and now we all could potentially feel the pinch. Progress is great, but this is one of the unintended consequences of more efficient (or even gasless!) vehicles.
Officials on Capitol Hill are scrambling for a quick fix, ranging from a onetime tax charge on the overseas earnings of American companies to raising the gas tax. President Obama is pushing for a four-year, $302 billion bill that would raise $150 billion through taxes on corporation’s overseas earnings by closing certain loopholes, but that is likely a temporary fix, and one many lobbyists are sure to fight.
The best solution would be to levy an even heavier tax on tractor-trailers and the companies that run them, as these massive vehicles do a bulk of the damage to our nation’s infrastructure. By some estimates, big trucks cause as much as 160,000 times more damage to road surfaces than the average car, and there have been calls to raise the Heavy Truck Use Tax. But again, lobbyists.
Whatever the decision is it has to come quick and be forward thinking — hopefully not just be some band aid that simply extends the agony of the American infrastructure.