Groups Say GOP Rule Undermines Transportation

Groups Say GOP Rule Undermines Transportation

A coalition of prominent transport trade groups is warning that a change to House rules proposed by Republicans may undermine spending from the Highway Trust Fund.

The proposal from the incoming GOP leadership would drop a rule requiring transport spending flow through the priorities set in the multi-year transportation bill.

“We are writing on behalf of multiple transportation organizations to raise our strong objection,” the groups said in a Dec. 28 joint letter addressed to “members of the House leadership.”

They said a proposed change in House rules by the incoming GOP majority “would hurt investment in transportation infrastructure, reduce jobs, and break faith with the American taxpayer” by ending the current link between trust fund fee collections and how that revenue is disbursed to the states.

The 21 signers include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Trucking Associations, American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Others include industry groups for specialized construction firms, unions, materials providers and highway users or safety groups.

In a copy of the letter on the AASHTO Web site, the transportation groups said a House rule that has been in place since 1998 “ensures that all of the revenues that taxpayers pay into the Highway Trust Fund are used for highway and transit improvements on an annual basis.”

But the proposed GOP change, they said, “would sever the user-financed basis” of that trust fund “and make annual federal highway and transit investments subject to the whims of the appropriations process.”

The current rule requires spending trust fund balances according to requirements of multi-year surface transportation legislation that guides spending for several federal programs -- mainly formula allocations to states for them to spend on their chosen road and bridge needs.

The proposed GOP language does not mention that link to existing multi-year legislation, and could give House Republicans more control over transportation spending policies going forward.

The industry groups said states need predictable money flows to manage their infrastructure spending, but repeated short-term extensions of federal transportation programs by Congress “has led many states to begin scaling back their transportation programs.” The signers said the GOP’s rule change “would inject further uncertainty into an already destabilized U.S. transportation construction marketplace.”

--Contact John Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.