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June 13, 2017 2:30 PM, EDT

Construction Groups Applaud Lawmakers’ Push for Trust Fund Fix

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

The endorsement by more than 250 members of the House to ensure colleagues on the tax policy panel adopt a sustainable funding source for a federal highway account drew praise from one of the country’s largest construction groups.

The Transportation Construction Coalition this week applauded a letter sent to the leadership of the Ways and Means Committee asking them review the Highway Trust Fund during tax reform negotiations this year.

Republican leaders intend to overhaul the tax code as early as this summer, and the trust fund is headed toward insolvency in about three years.

“Waiting until that point to address the trust fund’s revenue shortfall would result in a nearly $18 billion average annual shortfall between existing revenue and the amount needed to prevent cuts in highway and public transportation spending,” according to the coalition, consisting of 31 national associations and construction unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers. “The letter makes crystal clear that members of both parties are seeking a break from the budget gimmicks and general fund transfers of the past.”

On June 12, the leaders of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), forwarded their letter about the trust fund signed by 253 bipartisan colleagues. Of that, 119 were Republicans and 134 Democrats.

“The president [Trump] has made rebuilding our transportation network a priority, and rightfully so,” Graves said. “But, instead of thinking a one-time, trillion dollar investment would solve our infrastructure problems, my focus is on making sure we’re being responsible in how we plan for and fund projects in the future.”Transportation authorizers in the House are expected to take up a long-term infrastructure bill this fall, which would be about the time when the administration would unveil legislative details for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan. To advance legislation that would include the trust fund, the authorizers would need to coordinate with colleagues on the Ways and Means panel.

Key players in the freight industry have called on Congress and the White House to approve an increase in fuel taxes to help pay for upgrades to roads and bridges. The trust fund relies on the federal 24.4 cents-per-gallon diesel tax and 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax, which have not been increased since 1993.