GOP to blame for road funding crunch, report says

GOP to blame for road funding crunch, report says
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Republicans are responsible for the shortfall in transportation funding that is threatening construction projects across the country, according to a report released on Monday.

The Democratic-leaning American Bridge 21st Century said GOP leaders have blocked efforts to increase the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax to pay for a new round of transportation spending for years. 

“Republicans kicked the can down the road on the highway bill last summer by funding a short-term solution that is set to expire at the end of May,” the report said. “Despite the efforts of some moderates in their party who understand the importance of long-term infrastructure investments, it looks like the GOP leadership will once again bow to pressure from the Tea Party and the Koch brothers by trying to pass another short-term fix.” 

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The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire on May 31. The Department of Transportation has said it has enough money to cover projects for a month or two after that, but then it will have to cut back on payments to state and local governments who are expecting federal help with large infrastructure projects. 

Lawmakers have been trying to come up with a way to pay for an extension of the transportation funding measure for months, but as the calendar turns to May, there is no easy solution in sight. 

Transportation advocates have pushed for a gas tax increase to pay for the transportation funding extension, but lawmakers have been reluctant to ask drivers to pay more at the pump. 

The gas tax has been traditional source of federal transportation funding since it was first implemented in the 1930s. The tax has not been increased since 1993, and improvements in fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion at its current rate. 

The American Bridge report placed blame for the shortfall on GOP lawmakers’ resistance to increase the federal government’s transportation funding. 

“Passing the highway bill used to be a bipartisan effort, until the Koch brothers’ Tea Party mentality took over Congress in the last few years, rejecting the idea of federally funded infrastructure entirely,” the report said. 

“This thinking is beginning to seep into the so called mainstream of the Republican Party,” the report continued. “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House and Senate GOP budget plans ‘cut highway construction and other transportation infrastructure funding over the next decade by 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, below the cost of maintaining current funding levels.’”

The Department of Transportation has said that its Highway Trust Fund, which takes in revenue from the gas tax, will run out of money in late July or early August unless Congress passes legislation to replenish it this month.