Foxx to Congress: ‘Get Serious’ on Highway Funding

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: Anthony Foxx speaks after being ceremonially sworn in as Transportation Secretary, at the U.S. Department of Transportation, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, was officially sworn in on July 2 and is the 17th Secretary of Transportation in U.S. history. 
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Billy House
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Billy House
June 10, 2014, 8:39 a.m.

Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx on Tues­day said it’s time to “get past gim­micks” and fo­cus on a longer-term solu­tion for keep­ing the na­tion’s high­way fund­ing from dry­ing up this sum­mer.

Foxx’s re­marks came in re­sponse to a House Re­pub­lic­an idea to cut Sat­urday postal de­liv­er­ies as a way to cre­ate sav­ings that could be used to keep the high­way fund solvent for an­oth­er year.

“I grew up in an Amer­ica that played to win. Not an Amer­ica that played not to lose,” said Foxx, who met earli­er Tues­day be­hind closed doors with House Demo­crats on Cap­it­ol Hill. He de­scribed the GOP’s postal-cuts idea as, at best, a one-year patch to re­plen­ish the High­way Trust Fund — not “a real solu­tion” to sta­bil­ize fund­ing for high­ways, bridges, and trans­it and rail sys­tems.

Foxx poin­ted out that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has put forth a longer-range al­tern­at­ive. It has pro­posed a $302 bil­lion, four-year trans­port­a­tion reau­thor­iz­a­tion plan, known as the Grow Amer­ica Act. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al is fun­ded by sup­ple­ment­ing cur­rent rev­en­ues like the gas tax with $150 bil­lion in one­time “trans­ition” rev­en­ue in the form of a “pro-growth busi­ness tax “re­form” — a tough sell to con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans.

But something needs to be de­cided, and soon. The na­tion’s High­way Trust Fund is pro­jec­ted to dry up by Au­gust, at the height of the road and bridge con­struc­tion sea­son, in what some are now call­ing a high­way fund­ing “cliff” fa­cing Con­gress.

And Foxx painted a pic­ture of a sum­mer con­struc­tion sea­son be­ing ab­ruptly hal­ted, with 700,000 jobs po­ten­tially at risk. Already, he said, state and loc­al part­ners in thou­sands of planned road, bridge, and oth­er in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects are un­cer­tain about wheth­er to put up the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars that rep­res­ent their share of costs to get pro­jects ready.

Sen­ate Demo­crats and out­side con­ser­vat­ive groups have ri­diculed the postal cuts as a solu­tion. They scoff at its re­li­ance on hy­po­thet­ic­al sav­ings over 10 years of di­min­ished Sat­urday de­liv­ery — in­clud­ing the avoid­ance of some fu­ture bail­out of the Postal Ser­vice if that ser­vice con­tin­ues — as a way to im­me­di­ately come up with more than $10 bil­lion for the fund.

Foxx de­clined to re­ject out­right the GOP’s postal-cuts idea, but he made clear that there is not much ad­min­is­tra­tion en­thu­si­asm for it.

“All along we have said that if there are oth­er ideas that emerge that we will be will­ing to con­sider those things,” Foxx said. “I sup­pose that’s where we are.”

But he ad­ded, “I would point out that on its best day, the pro­pos­al that’s be­ing offered on this postal ser­vice is a one-year pro­pos­al, and so it doesn’t meet the de­mands of a long-term in­vest­ment.”

He also warned: “For Amer­ic­ans out there, the potholes are go­ing to get deep­er, the travel times are go­ing to get longer, the trips to pick up your kids are go­ing to get longer. It’s just not the way to do busi­ness, and that’s the thing we’re try­ing to change.”

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