Permanent highway funding must be solved

Congress has kicked the proverbial can down the road so many times on one critical issue – highway and bridge funding – that lawmakers’ toes must be getting sore.

It happened again last week when, for the 12th time in six years, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a temporary approach to the dilemma. If enacted, the House bill will continue federal highway and mass transit funding to the states for a mere two months.

Congressional action is needed because the current authorization to spend money for the purpose expires Sunday.

Lawmakers’ predicament is that the Federal Highway Fund is running out of money. It could be empty as soon as August.

That is because revenue is down from the 18.4 cent federal tax on every gallon of motor fuel sold in the United States. As Americans have reduced gasoline and diesel fuel consumption, the Highway Fund has suffered. So have states that rely on it.

Members of Congress have known for years that something needs to be done about the fund. Yet instead of taking decisive action, they approve temporary measures. While Congress dithers, roads throughout the nation are deteriorating.

Some Democratic lawmakers want to spend more on highways without addressing the revenue side of the equation realistically. That is even more irresponsible than delays in finding a permanent solution – something Congress should work up the courage to do this summer.