Lipinski to Pursue $60 Billion in Annual Highway Funding

While acknowledging the difficulties of getting any significant legislation passed in Congress, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) told the Association of Equipment Distributors (AED)/Infor Executive Forum Sept. 13 in Rosemont, IL that he plans to pursue a new highway bill that would provide between $60 and $70 billion a year for as many as six years.

The current funding bill, MAP-21, expires at the end of the next fiscal year and, according to Lipinski, there will only be $36 million in the Highway Trust Fund earmarked for 2015. He said that means Congress will have to approve a transfer of $15 billion from the general fund to the highway fund just to get the fund to its current level.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen again,” Lipinski said, acknowledging that Congress has transferred funds before. “It used to be where transportation was a bipartisan issue but we have lost a lot of that.”

He said the Congress needs to find ways to get more money into the Highway Trust Fund, but the question is where is it going to come from? He said the fund is currently funded through the gas tax, which he said no politician wants to touch, and he said a tax on vehicle miles was rejected by the White House.

Among the ideas currently under consideration to raise revenue for the Highway Trust Fund are:

  • Indexing the gas tax to either the PCI or the construction inflation rate
  • Institute a per-barrel tax on oil
  • Increase the tax on diesel fuel, a suggestion Lipinski said the trucking industry is amenable to
  • Institute a user fee of some type on alternative fuels.

“If we’re going to get these things done the revenue has to come from somewhere. It’s not just going to magically appear,” he said.

While lamenting the intransigent Congress and placing himself among the bi-partisan legislators – part of what he said was an 80-member “No Labels Group” – the fifth-term Congressman said representatives need to be assured they aren’t going to be attacked by constituents for making decisions that are made for the good of the country. He said part of the current problem is that representatives are not looking out for the country, they are looking out for and voting for what their constituents want.

“We’ve got to find ways to come together or else we’re not going to succeed and we’re not going to be able to find ways to get things done that we need to get done,” Lipinski said. “This needs to be done for America,” he said. “We need to be assured that people are not going to use this as a political hammer on us.”