Recently, Congress passed a bill to move about $10 billion into the Highway Trust Fund to prevent a cutback in road construction and transit funding.
If additional money had not been transferred to the fund, federal spending on construction would have been slashed dramatically starting now, but we have put off this crisis now until the spring.
I’m pleased that we solved this funding problem in the short term without unnecessary politics and posturing. We should not be cutting construction jobs and stopping projects we know are needed to fix our roads and transit.
That being said, I’m disappointed that we have kicked the can down the road into next year again instead of coming up with a long term solution. We should roll up our sleeves and get to work on a robust, long-term bill that provides the level of funding we know our area and our nation need for road construction and transit, and we should be doing this before the end of the year.
We need to get serious about long-term funding instead of searching the couches for change every few months or years.
The Highway Trust Fund has historically been funded through a user fee, the gas tax. But for a variety of reasons, including more efficient cars, recent economic stagnation, and the fact that this user fee hasn’t been increased since 1993, the revenue into the Trust Fund has been dropping.
We now have two choices: explore new and/or expanded revenue sources or face a sharp cut in federal funding for road construction and public transportation.
Illinois is now looking at a cut of $390 million per year for road construction and $150 million per year for public transit if more revenue is not added to the Highway Trust Fund. I believe any revenue raiser should maintain the user fee concept – as touted by Ronald Reagan – where those who use our roads are paying to maintain them.
We may need to think outside the box for these solutions, but forestalling those decisions for yet another year won’t lead to any better ideas, it will only make the challenges worse.
As the senior member from the state on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I would appreciate your input on this important issue.
We’ve got to find ways to come together because this needs to get done not just for the district or the region, but for our nation.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, represents the Third District of Illinois.