The United States Highway Trust Fund is getting closer to running out, and the federal government is scrambling to find a way to keep it in the black. The fund pays for a significant portion of the upkeep for the country's interstates, bridge repairs and some public transportation projects. It's currently backed under a two-year law that expires in September, but Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx claims the actual money in the account will be gone by the end of August. Without new financing, the depletion stands to affect 112,000 ongoing projects and about 700,000 jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration and Foxx have already presented a four-year funding bill that would end a tax break for businesses and give states the ability to charge tolls on interstates to raise money for upkeep. But the President's plan is raising controversy from Republican legislators who don't want to change taxes for businesses, especially in an election year. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Foxx still hopes to close a loophole in companies' deferring taxes on overseas earnings that could raise $150 billion.

The current funding is provided by an 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline. However, the latter hasn't been raised since the '90s. With more efficient cars and no adjustment, the tax just isn't providing enough money to keep up with needed repairs. The Highway Trust Fund provides about a quarter of the annual public spending on roadway projects, according to the WSJ.

There is an alternative bipartisan bill in the Senate, notes Businessweek. The six-year plan would continue funding at $105 billion a year (plus inflation) but at the moment, it doesn't say where that money will actually come from. That part is being left for later.

The legislative and executive branches still have a few weeks to hammer out a deal over how to pay for America's highway upkeep. While that happens, the future of our nation's roads appears to hang in the balance.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 96 Comments
      cpmanx
      • 7 Months Ago
      A little historical context here. The US Highway Trust Fund was established under President Eisenhower, backed by a 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax. President Reagan increased the tax to 9 cents. President George H.W. Bush then increased the tax to 14 cents. President Clinton bumped it to 18.4 cents, with the added funds earmarked for deficit reduction. In 1997 the GOP-led Congress redirected the extra funds away from deficit reduction an earmarked it for additional highway spending instead. In the current debate over how to keep the fund solvent, Bill Schuster (R-PA), the chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, is pushing the idea of a mileage tax. The point here is that this is not a simple partisan issue. It is an issue of finding a way to convince the public to pay for the maintenance and expansion of essential infrastructure.
      Michael
      • 7 Months Ago
      'The current funding is provided by an 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline. However, the latter hasn't been raised since the '90s.' Why, because it's 'unpopular' to actually pay for what we use? Crap roads & bridges are super unpopular, too. Choose one.
        Willy
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Michael
        Here, here!
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Michael
        People are going to die with collapsed bridges. No problem as long as we cut spending.
      Kimithechamp
      • 7 Months Ago
      Could just get the economy moving, you know put people back to work, those people use cars to get there, buying gas... Having such a piss poor labor participation rate can't be helping, though obviously we should tax the sh*t out of anything we can... All us consumers are sitting on such a huge wad of cash and all. Maybe greenlight a few of these oil related energy prospects. Doesn't seem like driving the cost of gas up will increase demand any. If anything people will drive less and purchase even more economical cars, which under the current set up would exacerbate the problem. Would be nice to have a trillion or so around to infuse some of these shovel ready type jobs. Would have also been nice if anyone would have been competent enough to do something about infrastructure spending/funding before they started mandating requirements that wanked the rug out from under them, but I guess we wouldn't have an emergency to tax foreign earnings (driving more business overseas along with their jobs) over then.
      Scandinavia
      • 7 Months Ago
      Does the GOP have a good argument why the federal tax on gasoline should not at least be inflation adjusted? As a Scandinavian road engineer it is sad to see your roads deteriorate so much before you take action. Don't you Americans have like 70.000 structurally deficient bridges? If you don't take action soon these will start to collapse.
      Avinash Machado
      • 7 Months Ago
      Maybe increase the gas tax to 25 cents per gallon.
      Fazzster
      • 7 Months Ago
      Total cost for Obama family Africa trip - $100 million of the tax payers money Total cost for 2012 Obama Hawaii vacation (transportation only) $5.5 million of the tax payers money Total cost for 2013 Obama Hawaii vacation (transportation only) $7.5 million of the tax payers money Total cost for 2013 Obama Marthas Vineyard vacation (transportation only) $1.2 million of the tax payers money. I guess we know where the "transportation" money is going.
      johnb
      • 7 Months Ago
      funny coming from an administration that blew a trillion dollars on a phony stimulus package and then laughed on camera about it not being as shovel ready as they originally sold it as.
        JF GeSchmidtt
        • 7 Months Ago
        @johnb
        80% of the stimulus was in tax breaks for big business, which was the only way to get the few dollars that got through for the rest. See how many jobs those tax breaks created...
          razorpit
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JF GeSchmidtt
          Unless you are referring to all the new government jobs in D.C., then no I don't see them...
          tegdesign
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JF GeSchmidtt
          That is simply false on all fronts.
        GleninCA
        • 7 Months Ago
        @johnb
        A large portion of the stimulus was tax breaks which Republicans fought for (and then voted against). But overall, the stimulus worked, it just wasn't large enough to cover the massive hole that the recession put us in.
      SlothLovesChunk
      • 7 Months Ago
      The gas tax needs to be raised, it is comical that it hasn't been done already.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 7 Months Ago
        @SlothLovesChunk
        If you can push obamacare without a single republican you can push the gas tax.
          EVnerdGene
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          "If you can . . . " you really want a single party dictatorship ?
        RocketRed
        • 7 Months Ago
        @SlothLovesChunk
        Yes, and the post doesn't even mention it. It simply is politically impossible to raise the gas tax, even if you gave corresponding tax breaks to shipping companies and low income drivers. But even with a gas tax, people are driving less and cars are more efficient, so that is not a long-term solution. The feds may need to have a national "sticker" law, like municipalities do, to raise money for the roads.
      jah-nay
      • 7 Months Ago
      Obama's only solution is raising tax on business! More job killing tax increases on the back of large and small business. We already had Obamacare mandates, now the EPA is going to run wild! Only will increase the numbers of the unemployed....more Obama voters! How about more efficient use of the existing funds, less pork/earmarks/bridges-to-nowhere? Raising gas taxes should be the last resort!
      Red_Wing_2121
      • 7 Months Ago
      OR! Now stay with me on this... Or... we can take funding away from things such as the military budget to put into more sensible budgets such as the Highway trust.
        Bexly
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Red_Wing_2121
        Nation Building in our own nation? Nonsense! There are more brown people to kill.
          Ele Truk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Bexly
          America needs to go to war with itself and lose, that way the US can benefit from the Marshall plan that has help rebuild so many foreign countries.
        razorpit
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Red_Wing_2121
        One of the few things that's in our Constitution is for the Federal government to protect its interests and borders. How about taking away the free cell phone program first.
          Actionable Mango
          • 7 Months Ago
          @razorpit
          If you are referring to Article 1, section 8, it doesn't say we can't have a standing army for more than two years. It says you can't appropriate money for the army that will be used for more than two years: "To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;" It sounds like appropriating soldier salaries on an annual basis would take care of that. Maybe you were referring to something else, but I can't find it.
          brandon
          • 7 Months Ago
          @razorpit
          Did you miss that "no standing armies for more than 2 years" part?
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          @razorpit
          How would the "intent" be only having a standing army for up to two years... if the Revolutionary War lasted much longer? The "intent" was never to limit the amount of time an army can be formed and ready.
        RocketRed
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Red_Wing_2121
        I hate to point this out to (other) liberals, but the military budget is a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements and it is basically irrelevant in a discussion of spending priorities. Maybe we can and should slash a lot of dump weapons programs, but the military budget is not some kind of cookie jar which we can raid to solve long term fiscal and public investment issues. Defense is only about 5% of GDP and whacking it entirely would not even balance the budget.
          EVnerdGene
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RocketRed
          OK, you guys. Before you badmouth entitlements, make sure you are not talking about Social Security and Medicare which are not f'ing entitlements. I have paid into these for several decades, and my #1 fear right now is the morons in WDC will destroy this company and all the money I have paid into will have been BLOWN. ~8.5 percent of every friggin' paycheck I've ever gotten. Don't call it a f'ing entitlement. It is a savings account with a pitifully low, actually negative interest rate. obtw: Who causes (controls or lack thereof) inflation ?
          EVnerdGene
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RocketRed
          brotherkenny, you need to stop smokin' the dope for awhile so you can see some reality
          brotherkenny4
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RocketRed
          Just not true. It's one of the great republican lies. Like fiscal responsibility and freedom. Facists will say anything to trick people.
          brandon
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RocketRed
          Have you actually looked at the budget? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_United_States_federal_budget now, divide .5/3.77=13% Now, you are right in one regard, we do spend wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much on entitlements, but defense is WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY overbloated as well.
          RocketRed
          • 7 Months Ago
          @RocketRed
          I said GDP, not the budget, in terms of the percentage. So we are both right. But even in your terms, 13% of the budget relative to entitlements is chump change compared to the more than two-thirds of the budget that is non-discretionary. It's like a man with a fierce and costly cocaine habit saying he needs to cut back on eating out so he can afford to go to the movies more often. In this example, let's look at the numbers. The current DoD budget is about 500 billion. Even if you could somehow cut that by 1/3rd, that's only about 165 billion in extra money per year in the treasury. But we are looking for 150 billion, at least, for the roads per year, from the new business tax. So even if you could somehow cut 1/3 out of the military budget, that barely addresses this one spending priority. Then what? Where is the next 200 billion for something else? Looking at the military as competitor for needed public investment has a nice ring to it but it's sad nonsense.
        brandon
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Red_Wing_2121
        Who are you to come in here and talk sense? This is AB, sense is not required to post. So please retract your previous statement.
      JB
      • 7 Months Ago
      Raising motor fuel taxes and taking away subsidies to the oil industry, including trillions spent on the Navy to protect the world oil supply around Iran, is the best way to energy independence, national security, lower pollution and transition of renewable energy transportation. It will also lower healthcare costs as people will transition to using there legs, bikes and transit to avoid road tax.
        Ele Truk
        • 7 Months Ago
        @JB
        Just take away oil industry subsidies. Any businesses that are over 100 years old and make billions in profits don't need any kind of subsidies.
          razorpit
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Ele Truk
          Or just make everyone pay a little something in taxes. After all it is unpatriotic to not pay your fair share so says the V.P.
      peteMT
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'll say it again: Watch soon for Republicans calling for the privatization of the entire interstate highway system. "Lower taxes! Less government!" They'll cry. Most Americonsumers (particularly Christians) will fall in line and agree. Taxes bad! Government bad! The system will be sold to a large multinational corporation, or Bain, take your pick. And we will never recover once down that road. GPS tolls, baby, constantly for almost all driving. Then, when people don't drive as much? They'll just lobby for more taxes to cover the gap! We're idiots, we'll fall for it, you just watch. Besides, our government has entitlements to pay for! I'm sure the Republicans will wave that flag as well.
    • Load More Comments