Changes to government spending rules recently proposed by The House Republican Conference has a coalition of highway users and road-building groups up in arms over the possibility that highway funding could be treated as any other spending proposal.
Industry groups agree a GOP funding rule change would destablize the funding stream.
Were that to occur, road-building budgets and highway funding in general could be subject to the whims of individual members of the House.
The rule change proposed by GOP leadership would repeal the guaranteed funding requirement for annual federal highway investment, returns the process to the pre-TEA-21 era. Then, the Highway Trust Fund revenues were higher than expenditures, and much of the "surplus" money flowed to other non-transportation related projects, leaving highway infrastructure needs under-funded.
On Tuesday, a coalition of groups including the American Trucking Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Laborers International Union, the Associated General Contractors of America, The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association and 16 others wrote to House Republican leadership objecting to the rule change proposed by the GOP on Dec. 22.
The coalition includes the General Contractors Association (GCA) of New York, the Construction Industry Council, the Long Island Contractors' Association (LICA) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) of New York State.
Denise Richardson, Managing Director of the General Contractors Association of New York, stated, "America's highway system has demonstrated mile after mile its ability to create a vibrant, dynamic economy and a stronger, more robust nation. Yet the incoming House Republican majority has unveiled a plan that would repeal guaranteed funding requirements for annual federal highway investment by Washington. It is inconceivable to any taxpayer who has paid for our roads and bridges that the maintenance of these critical arteries would now be left to the political whims of Congress."
Existing rules forbid "obligation limitations to be below the level for any fiscal year set forth in section 8003 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, as adjusted, for the highway category or the mass transit category." SAFETEA-LU is the authorization bill for federal highway spending. It has been repeatedly extended since expiring on September 30, 2009, and it is set to expire again March 4.
The proposed rule states that a transportation bill is out of order only if it spends money in the Highway Trust Fund for non-transportation purposes or if it "reduces or otherwise limits the accruing balances of the Highway Trust Fund, for any purpose other than for those activities authorized for the highway or mass transit categories."
The industry group agrees this rule change would destablize the funding stream and push states to scale back highway spending.