Democrats have dismissed a proposal by House Republicans to end Saturday mail delivery and make other changes at the U.S. Post Office in order to come up with money to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.
Without an infusion of cash from Congress, the trust fund is expected to be insolvent by late July or early August.
The chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), called the Republican proposal “strange,” saying it would help the fund for only a few months by cutting back mail delivers to American households.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of EPW’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, labeled the idea a “non-starter.”
The House’s Republican leaders, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a May 30 memo to their members that by discontinuing most Saturday delivery, except for such things as medicine, Congress would have enough money to shore up the trust fund.
“We firmly believe that this is the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner that implements a needed structural reform to a growing federal liability,” Boehner and Cantor said in the memo.
“Adopting this proposal would save $10.7 billion over the next 10 years,” they said.
The memo cites figures from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff that said, based on and an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, Congress would need to find an additional $14 billion to $15 billion to extend MAP-21 for one year at current spending levels.
MAP-21 is the two-year spending authorization law that expires Sept. 30.
In addition to curtailing postal service on Saturdays, the Republican memo also said that Congress could transfer the current balance in the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund to the trust fund, a move that would generate about $1.3 billion.
Carper said the Republican proposal “kicks the can down the road yet again on two pressing issues — fixing the Postal Service and the Highway Trust Fund — and fails to solve either problem.
“The hard truth is that moving to a five-day delivery schedule isn’t enough on its own to save the Highway Trust Fund or the U.S. Postal Service,” he said. “The numbers just don’t add up.”
Boxer said in a statement that the Republican plan is a jobs killer that wouldn’t even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long enough time to provide the certainty that she said states, cities and businesses need.
She called the idea a “classic example” of House Republicans not planning for a shortfall known about for years.
“It is unworkable, makes no sense and ignores the huge infrastructure needs we face, as so many bridges and roads are in grave disrepair,” she said.
Both Democrats also criticized the plan for not presenting a long-term solution to the transportation funding crisis. Not only is the trust fund going to have a shortfall this summer, but long term, there also is a shortfall.
EPW has advanced a six-year highway bill that would need an additional $100 billion over what federal fuel taxes are projected to generate for the trust fund over the coming six years.
Democrats were not the only ones criticizing the leadership plan. Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy group, also dismissed the plan.
“The idea Congress would use a supposedly self-funding agency that cannot pay its bills as a piggy bank to fund another bankrupt, self-funding fund is absurd,” Dan Holler, the group’s communications director, said in an e-mail the same day the GOP plan surfaced.