Rule could endanger transportation budget, building trade jobs sector

The letter is a follow-up to a letter Courtney sent directly to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Dec. 30 urging him to strike the rule.

The letter, sent to Republican Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and David Drier, (Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the changes could leave in doubt whether the multi-year transportation project will be funded. 

In late December, a diverse coalition of business groups and unions wrote to House Republican leadership opposing the change.

The letter was signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Laborers International Union, the American Trucking Association, the Associated General Contractors of America and 17 other groups.  

In their most recent letter, lawmakers argued the rule changes make the trust fund subject to the appropriations process instead of leaving it solely for infrastructure projects, raising concern that its funding — by a national gas tax — could be used for other purposes. 

Democrats have maintained those protections of the account, especially as the nation's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and lawmakers have been unable to pass another comprehensive surface transportation bill. 

"By treating dedicated Trust Fund revenue and expenditures as all other general spending, it raises significant doubt about Congress’s long term commitment to infrastructure investment at exactly the wrong time for this troubled industry," the letter said. 

"Rather than reversing over a decade of bipartisan consensus through the rules package, we believe that the Congress should focus instead on enacting a multi-year highway authorization bill to address issues related to the Trust Fund," the lawmakers said in the letter. 

The lawmakers argued the building trade jobs sector was particularly hard hit and its recovery would be hampered by the rule. 

"At a time when so many in Congress, including the new incoming Majority, have stressed the need for stability in our economy, certainty in our finances and an emphasis on job creation and protection, this particular portion of the rules package is nothing short of counterintuitive to these important goals," they wrote. 

Led by former Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee put together a $500 billion bill in 2009 for the nation's highways and railroads. At the time, the White House said they wanted to wait until this year to attempt to move a bill because the lone solution in raising the money for the package appeared to be an increase in the national gas tax, a politically undesirable choice during the economic downturn.