January 05, 2011

Top Transportation Democrat Rahall Condemns Republican Attempt to Hold Highway Trust Fund Hostage

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today attempted to fend off changes to House rules that threaten to undermine long-standing Federal transportation programs.

“As their very first act in the Majority, I find it incredible that Republicans would want to pursue a job-killing proposal like this.  One that not only threatens jobs but that could also lead to dramatic reductions in spending for very necessary and worthy highway projects throughout the Nation,” said Rahall.  “Today, the new Republican Majority breaks the ‘trust’ of the Highway Trust Fund.”

House rules had previously provided for protected levels of highway and transportation funding, giving states and local communities greater stability, clarity, and predictability when it comes to planning transportation infrastructure.  The previous provision, which was championed by former Republican Congressman Bud Shuster, prevented funds from building up in the Highway Trust Fund to be used to mask the size of the Federal deficit.

The House adopted new rules today crafted by the Republican Leadership that contain a provision that will jeopardize transportation funding and bring greater uncertainty to long-term planning and maintenance of highway and transit systems.  The Rules package eliminates the current rule’s direct tie between revenues to the Highway Trust Fund, paid by users through gas taxes at the pump, and the level of investment for these programs.

“Americans understand, and support, paying motor fuel taxes at the pump so long as they are guaranteed that those funds will be spent on transportation,” said Rahall.  “The Republican Rules package smudges that guarantee and will have a potentially devastating effect on the level of Federal investment in vital highway and transit programs.”

The rule change is vigorously opposed by state departments of transportation, public transit agencies, highway contractors, equipment manufacturers, the trucking industry, moving companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, highway users, and construction workers.

“It is a sad day for transportation.  The Republican Rules package creates uncertainty in an industry that cannot afford it.  The Republican Rules package will hurt highway, transit, and airport construction companies and kill jobs,” said Rahall.