Hutchison to LaHood: Administration’s Proposed 18 Month Extension of Federal Highway Law Penalizes Texas and Other Donor States

July 8, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today expressed strong concerns to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that the Administration’s proposed 18 month extension of federal highway law, which expires on September 30, would perpetuate existing funding formulas that penalize Texas and other donor states. She urged LaHood in a letter to move quickly to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money in August 2009, using unspent stimulus funding.  She said this would ensure that highway funding continues uninterrupted to improve our nation’s roads and provide jobs to promote the nation’s economic recovery. 

“It is critical that adequate funding is allocated to the Highway Trust Fund.  We must ensure the continuity of these important safety programs, as well as the very important highway funding that each state relies on to address their most pressing transportation needs,” Senator Hutchison wrote.  “At the same time, it is important that such funding be provided in a manner that does not further impact the deficit at the ultimate expense of hardworking American taxpayers.  In fact, I urge the Administration to carefully consider using any unallocated dollars from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) as a funding source.  Highway projects are proven job creators that will help promote our nation’s economic recovery and would meet the intended purposes of the ARRA.”

Senator Hutchison also stated that donor states like Texas should not be required to continue funding other states’ transportation needs for an additional 18 months. In April, she introduced S. 903, the Highway Fairness and Reform Act of 2009, to give states the choice to opt-out of the federal highway program and instead be rebated federal fuel taxes collected within their borders.  The bill would cut the overwhelming majority of federal strings attached, but would require that rebated taxes be spent on surface transportation projects. This option would allow all states to receive a more equitable distribution of gas tax dollars, while ensuring funds are directed toward improving transportation in high growth areas of our states.   

“I believe an 18 month extension is too long and, instead, Congress should be urged to act more quickly on a comprehensive highway reauthorization measure,” said Senator Hutchison.  

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Letter to Secretary Ray LaHood is attached.