The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee said on June 26 they will plan to meet during the week of July 7 to consider a short-term patch for a cash-strapped highway account.
Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah made their announcement during a highly-anticipated hearing they scheduled to consider a bill that would approve $9 billion to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the end of December. No votes were taken at the June 26 hearing.
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Wyden said the time during the July 4 congressional recess will give him an opportunity to meet with his Republican counterpart in the House, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who recently objected to his proposal. Wyden’s bill calls for reforming several banking programs to shore up the trust fund for several months.
“There is no way tax hikes to pay for more spending will fly in the House,” Camp said this week, referring to the Senate plan.
Responding to Senate Republican objections, Wyden agreed at the hearing to strike a heavy vehicle use tax hike from the bill, which was projected to raise more than $1 billion over a decade.
Wyden’s bill would have changed the maximum heavy-vehicle use tax from $550 to $1,100.
Under that proposal, trucks weighing a minimum of 55,000 but not exceeding 97,000 pounds would have been charged $100 and an additional $22 for every 1,000 pounds in excess of 55,000 pounds. The tax would have been capped at $1,100 annually for trucks weighing more than 97,000 pounds. That would have resulted in a $650 annual tax for trucks registered at 80,000 pounds.
Wyden noted that the Transportation Department noted that if Congress allows the Highway Trust Fund to approach bankruptcy next month, state’s ability to pay for road and transit projects would be put at risk.
“It’s crunch time on transportation,” Wyden told colleagues.