White House urges Congress to shore up depleted Highway Trust Fund

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.

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