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House OKs more cash for highway fund

The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday voted to infuse $19,972,603 to keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent early next month — and keeping road construction on state highways going until then.

The resolution, H.R. 5021, funds highway and transit programs through May 2015. It passed 367-55, and now goes to the Senate.

It means funds that repair interstates and state highways will be reimbursed by the federal government — a critical issue for Curry County’s Highway 101, which can experience slides after rainfalls and often needs repairs.

But Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio (D), a senior member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, criticized Republican leadership for even bringing the bill to the floor, saying the legislation neither creates jobs nor creates a long-term solution to the funding problem.

Federal transportation funds are dwindling because fuel tax revenue is not keeping up with road repair needs. Part of the reason for that is that people are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles; another aspect is that the federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents has not seen an increase in more than 20 years.

DeFazio and others ultimately voted for the bill to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt within a few weeks. However, earlier in the day he took to the House Floor to urge his colleagues to immediately pursue a bill to provide long-term funding. 

“H.R. 5021 is nothing more than a Band-Aid bill that will do little to create jobs or address the problem of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “Furthermore, a nine-month extension does little for states that need to plan long-term infrastructure projects.”

In June, DeFazio introduced H.R. 4848, the Repeal and Rebuild Act, that would repeal the federal gas tax and replace it with a tax on a barrel of oil. DeFazio’s bill is projected to raise more than $100 billion, enough to fund highway and transit programs for the next six years, thereby creating and saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“It was important today to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from running dry, but we cannot forget that failing to consider a long-term solution is a missed opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs, make communities safer and ease congestion,” DeFazio said. “Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to push my colleagues to address transportation funding head-on.”

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