WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for voting to restore the $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund ("HTF") that was lost in 1998. The highway fix has been a top priority for Senator Inhofe who recently joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the EPW Committee, in authoring a June 20 bi-partisan letter signed by 68 other Senators urging Congress to come up with a quick resolution to the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. The letter was sent to the Finance Committee and Senate Leadership.
"Ensuring the Federal Highway Trust Fund has the necessary funds to keep State projects funded and on track is a top priority for me," Senator Inhofe said."I applaud the Appropriations Committee vote today to restore the $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund ("HTF") that was lost in 1998. This fix needs to be enacted into law as soon as possible, regardless of the vehicle, in order to avoid cutbacks by the States in their planned transportation improvement projects for 2009. In my state of Oklahoma, these cuts would translate into a cut in federal funding of more than $172 million. This cut would result in a loss of more than 6,000 jobs in Oklahoma, and 485,000 jobs nationally. It is absolutely critical that we fix this looming shortfall.
"With seventy Senators recently signing a letter in support of the highway fix that was approved today, I am hopeful that the Senate Majority leader will move this fix as soon as possible. We know that a robust transportation program not only creates high paying construction jobs, but is the backbone of our economic vitality. Existing concerns about the ability of the HTF to honor commitments made to States are causing many to hold back on planned projects. Fixing the HTF shortfall will allow States to continue projects as planned."
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF), established in 1956, funds the nation’s highway program. Since its inception, the HTF has been funded by fuel taxes (18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline, 24.4 cents gallon for diesel); truck tire taxes; and a tax on new vehicles over 55,000 Gross Vehicle Weight. Unlike other federal trust funds the HTF is unique in that the money paid into the fund, only goes towards transportation infrastructure. Thus far, the revenues going into the trust fund have adequately funded it. Unfortunately, a "perfect storm" of events has effectively depleted once historic trust fund balances. A combination of higher gas prices which, for the first time, have resulted in a significant reduction of vehicle miles traveled and more fuel efficient vehicles has caused sharp reductions in the amount of revenue coming into the HTF. Therefore, unless Congress steps in to replenish the fund, the HTF will be unable to honor its funding obligations to states through SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.)