Congress' Transport Buzzword: 'Pay-For'

The surface transportation bill needs additional funding, so where are we going to get the pay-fors?

We’ve heard them coming from budget offsets for IRA accounts, leaking underground tanks, offshore drilling, and anywhere else the congressional financing committees can find some spare change.

It’s frustrating for the transportation lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Used to be, secure in the thought that Congress will pay for highways from the Highway Trust Fund, they only had to work with a handful of committees. Now they’re finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, such a committee that oversees energy policy.

The challenge is going to become more acute as the HTF peters out. Without a new source of revenue, transportation will have to fight for a piece of general revenue, alongside hundreds of other interest groups.

“Transportation is an unusual position that it hasn’t been in since the dawn of the Interstate program. It says, ‘We’re going to have to fight for our money along with everybody else,’” said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Transportation Foundation. “That’s a tough position for a group that for 50 years has seen a dedicated source of funding that kept increasing.”

Another new word for the lexicon: pluralateral. In the world or international trade negotiations, it’s becoming the accepted term for negotiations between more than two nations (bilateral) and all 157 members of the World Trade Organization (multilateral). The Trans-Pacific Partnership talks are considered pluralateral. Don’t try to say it when your tongue is cold.

Contact R.G. Edmonson at bedmonson@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobinWash.

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