Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., continues to press for action on a highway bill this year.
“The longer we wait to find a long-term funding solution for our critical infrastructure the worse it will be,” Boxer wrote in an October 9 letter to Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Boxer and others are pushing for a decision before the new Congress takes office next year. Camp, whose leadership is critical to any action on highway funding, is retiring from Congress at the end of this year.
If Congress does not act in 2014, the funding decision will be postponed at least until next May, when the current Highway Trust Fund short-term patch expires.
“The Highway Trust Fund is a problem that can be solved, and this Congress must uphold its responsibility to come up with a sustainable funding solution,” Boxer said in the letter. “We cannot afford to wait for action until the deadline which falls at the beginning of the critical summer construction season, or to kick the can down the road any longer.”
Boxer has discussed a range of funding options. Among them are replacing the per-gallon fuel tax with a sales tax on the wholesale price of fuel, raising and indexing the per-gallon fuel tax to inflation, or taking revenue out corporate tax reform.
She is joined in her effort by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who says that after the mid-term elections next month there will be a cadre of Senators who could “do the right thing” and vote for a long-term funding measure.
But the more likely outcome is delay. Former Transportation Secretary James Burnley recently said Republicans in the House are overwhelmingly opposed to raising fuel taxes and there is no political consensus on an alternative.
And should Republicans win control of the Senate in the mid-term elections next month, which pollsters say is likely, the path of least resistance will be defer the tough vote to the new members.