White House to Congress: Fix highway funding after recess

White House to Congress: Fix highway funding after recess
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The White House said Thursday that Congress will have to make preventing a bankruptcy in federal transportation funding a priority after the Fourth of July holiday break.

"There are two [issues] that come to mind that will be priorities when Congress returns," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

"The first is the supplemental funding request ... in terms of making sure that that the necessary resources are available to meet the need caused by the surge of illegal migration that we're seeing at the border," Earnest continued. "The second one is this issue of the Highway Trust Fund.

"This is traditionally an issue that has enjoyed bipartisan support, and we hope that will be true in this case because of the consequences of Congress failing to act for our economy."

Lawmakers are trying to come up with a way to close the shortfall in transportation funding, which is estimated to be about $16 billion per year.

The Department of Transportation has said that it will have to begin cutting back payments to state for infrastructure construction next month unless Congress approves at least $8 billion to carry transportation funding through the end of the year.

The White House has encouraged Congress to approve a four-year, $302 billion long-term transportation bill, but lawmakers have been focused on passing short-term patch.

The traditional source for transportation funding has long been revenue collected from the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents per gallon. The gas tax has struggled to keep up with infrastructure expenses as cars have become more fuel efficient in recent years.

Transportation advocates have pushed Congress to increase the gas tax for the first time since 1993 to close the funding gap, but lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump in the middle of an election year.

The current transportation funding bill, which includes the authorization to collect the gas tax at all, is scheduled to expire at the end of September.