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5/29/2014 10:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Could Post Office Become Highway Funding Source?

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News

Raising the U.S. gasoline tax is out as a way to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. So is taxing drivers based on the number of miles they clock. A plan to use taxes on companies’ overseas profits hasn’t gone anywhere.

So House Republicans are now turning to the money-losing U.S. Postal Service.

Unusual as it may sound, possible savings from revamping the agency’s operations are on the table as one way to patch highway funding, said two Republican legislative aides with knowledge of the talks.

“The long-term financial prospects of the Postal Service are fairly grim, so the idea that you could take money from that and not further exacerbate one problem in order to try to do a temporary Band-Aid on the other one borders on bizarre,” said Scott Lilly, a former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. He’s now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a policy group aligned with Democrats.

The Postal Service lost $1.9 billion in the quarter ending March 31 while the fund supporting the nation’s highways, bridges and transit may run short of money to pay its bills as soon as July, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

The Congressional Budget Office projected in April that when the 2014 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 the trust fund’s highway account will contain only $2 billion, half of what it had at the end of the previous year.

Tapping savings from Postal Service changes is one of several ideas being considered to bolster the highway fund, the aides said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Passing a highway bill is a priority for Congress this year.

“Encountering a situation where the trust fund can’t pay its bills on time is not an option,” said Janet Kavinoky, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s top transportation lobbyist. “So they’ve got to solve this problem one way or another before leaving for August recess.”

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By Angela Greiling Keane and Derek Wallbank
Bloomberg News

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