Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today voted for a bipartisan agreement – H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 – to ensure federal highway and mass transit projects continue to receive adequate funding through May 2015. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that without congressional action the Highway Trust Fund will be depleted by August, bringing important transportation projects across the country to an immediate halt. H.R. 5021 also reauthorizes federal highway and other surface transportation programs that are scheduled to expire on September 30.
H.R. 5021 passed by a bipartisan vote of 367 to 55 and now awaits action in the Senate.
“These critical investments in our highway infrastructure not only support good Michigan jobs, they set the groundwork for future economic growth, trade, and job creation in our region,” said Upton.
“Ensuring the Trust Fund remains solvent is necessary to keep our roads safe for motorists and commercial traffic alike. Congress and the White House must now work together in a bipartisan fashion to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism to modernize our crumbling infrastructure.”
H.R. 5021 includes three major provisions to stop the looming Highway Trust Fund shortfall in a budget-neutral manner, without increase taxes: (1) Pension Smoothing ($6.4 billion) - Employers are required to make certain payments to their pension plans based on an average interest rate. When interest rates remain low for an extended period of time – as they are right now – it costs employers more money. This provision provides employers relief from artificially low interest rates; (2) Customs User Fees ($3.5 billion) - Under current law, the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to collect passenger and conveyance processing fees and merchandise processing fee. The current authorization expires after September 30, 2023. The bill would extend the authorized period for 1 year; (3) Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST) ($1 billion) - The LUST Trust Fund is financed by a 0.1-cent-per-gallon gas tax and is used to pay expenses incurred by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and States for preventing, detecting, and cleaning up leaks from underground petroleum storage tanks. It currently has a balance of more than $1.4 billion and is expected to continue to grow.