The Senate’s top transportation leader expressed her support for a $9 billion plan to provide a short-term funding boost for a federal highway account, a day before a Senate committee’s consideration of the plan.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, urged colleagues June 25 to approve a plan offered by Democrats on the Finance Committee aimed at shoring up the cash-strapped Highway Trust Fund.
“I'm here to send an SOS to Congress because we are facing a transportation government shutdown," Boxer told reporters at a press event where she was joined by senior officials from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
This week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Finance Committee, scheduled a hearing for June 26 to take up his trust fund proposal. Several leading Republicans on the panel have indicated they would oppose Wyden’s bill. (UPDATE: Senate panel drops truck tax, postpones vote)
Wyden is proposing $9 billion for the Highway Trust Fund through the end of the year by reforming certain banking regulations, as well as changing the maximum heavy-vehicle use tax from $550 to $1,100.
Under his proposal, trucks weighing a minimum of 55,000 but not exceeding 97,000 pounds would be charged $100 and an additional $22 for every 1,000 pounds in excess of 55,000 pounds. The tax would be capped at $1,100 annually for trucks weighing more than 97,000 pounds. That would result in a $650 annual tax for trucks registered at 80,000 pounds.
Wyden’s House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), told reporters he plans to take up his trust fund plan in July.
According to the Department of Transportation, the trust fund’s highway account could fall below $4 billion as early as July 18. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has indicated that would put at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs and states’ ability to address the road, rail and transit projects.