Unions: GOP plan would 'do nothing to fix transportation funding crisis'

Getty Images

The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department (TTD) said Tuesday that a plan from House Republicans to tie infrastructure funding to cuts backs at the Postal Service would "do nothing to fix transportation funding crisis." 

Republican leaders have said the plan to eliminate Saturday letter deliveries would generate approximately $15 billion that could be used to help pay for at a least one year extension of transportation funding that is currently scheduled to expire in September.

AFL-CIO TTD President Ed Wytkind said Tuesday that the plan was a "scam" that would harm both transportation funding and the Postal Service.

ADVERTISEMENT
"How bad is the proposal by House Republican leaders to fix the Highway Trust Fund’s shortfall by eliminating Saturday mail service?  Consider this: 26 unions representing hundreds of thousands of transportation workers today announced their vociferous opposition to the plan," Wytkind said in a blog post on the labor group's website.

"To be sure these unions believe that stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund is a major priority – in fact, many represent members whose jobs are linked to fixing this funding crisis," he continued. "But they know a scam when they see one.  They know it’s a misguided idea that is more about ideology than solving problems; it will do nothing to solve our surface transportation funding needs – but will do much harm to Postal Service jobs and customers."

Lawmakers have been struggling to find a way to close a shortfall in transportation funding that is estimated to be as high as $16 billion per year.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) said again on Tuesday that its current money would run out of money in August. The transportation department updated its Highway Trust Fund ticker to show that the projected bankruptcy date for federal infrastructure funding is around Aug. 29.

The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue that is collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon. The tax only brings is about $34 billion per year, however, and the current level of transportation spending infrastructure advocates want lawmakers to maintain is about $50 billion annually.

The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and it was not indexed to inflation during the last hike, however.

Wytkind and other labor leaders have pushed Congress to increase the gas tax for the first time in two decades to close the gap, but most lawmakers have been reluctant to raise taxes in the middle of an election year.

Wytkind said Tuesday that the GOP's proposal was "straight out of the cynical playbook (too many “messaging bills and too few solutions) favored by too many politicians.

"This latest proposal is really about robbing Peter to pay Paul," Wytkind wrote.

"Saturday mail service, which provides essential service to tens of millions of consumers and businesses while sustaining 80,000 middle-class jobs, would be slashed in order to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money," he continued. "Republican Leaders argue that the 'savings' from the reduction in postal service would keep the fund solvent – a false assertion since the resulting decreases in postal revenues could cancel out any savings."

The current federal transportation funding bill, which includes the federal government's authorization to collect the gas tax at all, is also scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.