Foxx: Highway Cuts Coming Aug. 1 Unless Congress Acts

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. 
National Journal
Billy House
July 1, 2014, 9:33 a.m.

Be­cause law­makers have not ac­ted to re­plen­ish the dwind­ling High­way Trust Fund, states will soon face a 28 per­cent cut in fed­er­al fund­ing for re­pairs to roads and bridges, warned Trans­port­a­tion Sec­ret­ary An­thony Foxx on Tues­day.

“These cash-man­age­ment pro­ced­ures will be­gin on Aug. 1, 2014, for pro­grams fun­ded out of the High­way Ac­count, with states re­ceiv­ing no­ti­fic­a­tion of their first pro­por­tion­al share on Aug. 11, 2014,” writes Foxx in his let­ter to trans­port­a­tion of­fi­cials in all 50 states.

However, in a blog on the de­part­ment’s web­site that ac­com­pan­ied the let­ter’s an­nounce­ment, Foxx also writes, “The good news, at least, is that Con­gress can still choose to act when they re­turn from re­cess.”

Foxx is re­fer­ring to what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes will be law­makers’ ef­forts start­ing next week to find more money for the fund, which is pro­jec­ted be ex­hausted by Sept. 30. An 18.4 cent gas tax and oth­er fuel taxes have fin­anced the fund, but those have not been keep­ing up with in­fla­tion and the amount and costs of the pro­jects it has been fin­an­cing.

Foxx’s let­ter Tues­day is an ef­fort by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to turn up the heat on law­makers to find some ad­di­tion­al money. It tells state of­fi­cials that un­less a res­ol­u­tion is found, a new “cash man­age­ment plan” will be put in place at the start of Au­gust.

“Un­der the new plan, we’ll use the same per­cent­age each state is as­signed an­nu­ally to de­term­ine how much they’ll re­ceive of whatever is left in the fund,” writes Foxx. But he adds that states will not be paid their per­cent­age as they send in their bills, and, in­stead, “every two weeks as money from the gas tax trickles in­to the fund.”

“On av­er­age, states will see a 28 per­cent drop in fed­er­al trans­port­a­tion dol­lars. De­pend­ing on how they man­age the funds, each state will feel the ef­fects dif­fer­ently, but every­one will feel the im­pact soon­er or later,” he writes.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­jec­ted that delays could hit hun­dreds of road pro­jects around the coun­try and im­pact thou­sands of jobs.

Foxx’s let­ter goes on to say that in the event that the short­fall con­tin­ues in­to the fall, the Mass Trans­it Ac­count will also reach a crit­ic­al point. “Should that oc­cur, the De­part­ment will be provid­ing spe­cif­ic guid­ance on the Fed­er­al Trans­it Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach in man­aging the re­sources avail­able to trans­it agen­cies,” states Foxx’s let­ter.

But in his blog item, Foxx re­it­er­ates of the law­makers, “They still have some time.”

In the mean­time, some con­ser­vat­ive groups and Re­pub­lic­an law­makers are seiz­ing on the fund­ing short­fall as an op­por­tun­ity to re­open a policy de­bate over the fund it­self. And they are down­play­ing the dire warn­ings of not mov­ing quickly to re­plen­ish the fund as is while they en­gage in that de­bate.

In fact, many con­ser­vat­ives say it is time for Con­gress to con­sider “evolving” the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment out of some trans­port­a­tion de­cisions and to give more au­thor­ity to the states. They point to le­gis­la­tion — such as a meas­ure in­tro­duced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. — that would phase out the fed­er­al gas­ol­ine gas and turn over most of the fed­er­al trans­port­a­tion pro­gram to state­houses.

But in a state­ment on Tues­day, Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patty Mur­ray chimed in on what she said is a clock “wind­ing down for Con­gress to avoid lurch­ing to­ward an­oth­er un­ne­ces­sary crisis — this time with a con­struc­tion shut­down.”

“Work­ers and busi­nesses shouldn’t have to pay the price for an­oth­er man­u­fac­tured crisis out of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — so I hope Re­pub­lic­ans find a way to push the tea party aside and avoid this crisis,” said Mur­ray. “Re­pub­lic­ans have re­fused to work with us this year on im­mig­ra­tion re­form and oth­er policies that would cre­ate jobs, but hope­fully they can at least work with us to pre­vent jobs from act­ively be­ing des­troyed.”

Later Tues­day, Pres­id­ent Obama was to speak at the front of the Key Bridge in Wash­ing­ton to push for a plan to re­plen­ish the high­way fund.

What We're Following See More »
WARRING FACTIONS?
Freedom Caucus Members May Bolt the RSC
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.

Source:
SOME THERAPIES ALREADY IN TRIALS
FDA Approves Emergency Zika Test
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.

Source:
MONEY HAS BEEN PAID BACK
Medicare Advantage Plans Overcharged Government
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.

Source:
DESPITE CONSERVATIVE OBJECTIONS
Omnibus Spending Bill Likely Getting a Lame-Duck Vote
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.

Source:
FBI WARNS STATES
Foreign Agents Have Hacked State Voting Databases
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems." Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month conferred with state election officials, offering his department's assistance in scanning for vulnerabilities."

Source:
×