Sen. Murray: House transportation plan 'wrong way to go'

Lauren Schneiderman

The chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee said Tuesday that a House Republican plan to use cut backs at the United States Postal Service to help pay for a new transportation is the "wrong way to go."

GOP leaders in the House have said that they can pay for at least one year of infrastructure spending if the Post Office eliminates Saturday letter deliveries as lawmakers are searching for ways to pay for a new transportation bill.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a speech on the floor of the Senate that there are "better ways" to come up with the funding that is necessary to maintain the nation's infrastructure.

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"House Republicans have offered a proposal to cut mail delivery down to a modified five-day delivery system, to temporarily fund the Highway Trust Fund. But I believe that’s the wrong way to go," Murray said. "There are better ways to address both Postal Service reform and the Highway Trust Fund shortfall."

Lawmakers are working frantically to fry prevent a bankruptcy in the Department of Transportation's Highway Trust Fund that is projected to occur as early as August without congressional action.

The traditional funding source for transportation is money that is collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents-per-gallon. The gas tax only brings in about $34 billion per year however, while the federal government currently spends approximately $50 billion per year on transportation projects.

Other Democrats in the Senate have similarly objected to the House's plan. The primary author of the upper chamber's proposal for a new six-year, $265 billion transportation bill, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), called the House plan "unworkable" when it was first announced.

Transportation and postal advocates have also both slammed the Republican proposal as a short-sighted plan that would not solve the funding problems that are facing either area.

The Senate has not yet identified how it intends to pay for its version of the bill beyond the money that is collected from the gas tax.

Murray said Tuesday that she supports a proposal from President Obama to use money from closing corporate tax loopholes to close the transportation funding shortfall.

"Our tax code is riddled with wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations," she said. "And many of these are loopholes that both Democrats and Republicans have proposed closing."  

“Right now, corporations claim enormous tax breaks by compensating their executives in stock options, instead of regular paychecks - That’s so the corporation can skirt a tax rule that limits deductible cash compensation to $1 million per year for each of a handful of corporate officers," Murray continued. "Closing that loophole alone would save as much as $50 billion over ten years."

Murray added that "the list of loopholes goes on and on.

“And we can use the revenue generated by closing just a few of them to avoid an unnecessary crisis, shore up the Highway Trust Fund, and make the critical investments we need in our roads and bridges across the country," she said.
"States deserve more certainty in the Highway Trust Fund," Murray continued.

"Commuters are counting on transportation projects to ease traffic congestion. And construction workers are counting on jobs to repair roads and bridges."