Union: ‘No excuse’ for transportation funding stopgap

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A union that has pushed Congress to increase the taxes that are paid by drivers to help pay for transportation projects said Wednesday that lawmakers have “no excuse” for approving a temporary stopgap measure this summer. 

The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) union said the gas tax increase was one of “multiple viable options” that have been offered to provide funding for a multi-year transportation bill.

“While there appears to be movement on ensuring that the Highway Trust fund does not go bankrupt by the end of this summer, Congress has no valid excuses to not act on a long-term plan,” LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement. 

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“A fourth of America’s bridges are deficient or obsolete,” O’Sullivan continued. “Poor road surfaces, such as potholes, are now a contributing factor to a third of traffic fatalities, needlessly costing approximately 10,000 lives every year.” 

The labor leader’s comments came a day after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was preparing to move forward with a three-month stopgap that would only extend transportation funding until after the midterm elections. 

The traditional source of funding for the nation’s transportation projects has long been the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents-per-gallon. 

However, infrastructure expenses have outpaced revenue from the tax by about $16 billion annually in recent years as cars have become more fuel efficient and overall driving among U.S. residents has decreased. 

The gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993, currently brings in about $34 billion per year. The current transportation bill that is scheduled to expire in September includes approximately $50 billion in infrastructure funding, which is the level of spending that transportation advocates are trying to maintain.

Groups like LIUNA have argued that the gas tax would be about 30 cents-per-gallon now if it was indexed to inflation when it was last hiked 21 years ago. 

O’Sullivan said Wednesday that approve a stopgap bill to carry transportation funding only past the midterm elections would be an act of “cowardice” on the part of lawmakers. 

 “There are multiple viable options which would end the duct-taping of our failing roads and bridges and provide the long-term investment our nation, our people and our economy needs,” he said. “If Congress fails, it will be due to cowardice in standing up to extremists who are willing to destroy the critical transportation infrastructure of our country to make an ideological political point.”