Durbin Calls For Action to Avert Looming Shortfall in Highway Trust Fund
[SPRINGFIELD] – If Congress does not act before August 1, hundreds of infrastructure projects throughout Illinois could see their payments from the federal government slowed down during the height of construction season, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. Durbin made the comments while visiting a reconstruction project along I-72, one of many projects that could be affected if the Highway Trust Fund is not replenished within the next month.
Federal law does not allow the Highway Trust Fund to carry a negative balance. As a result, the Department of Transportation will be forced to slow payments until there is enough tax revenue to pay the incoming bills. Last week, the Secretary of Transportation wrote the Illinois Department of Transportation and the 49 other State Departments of Transportation to inform them the Highway Trust Fund will not have enough money to reimburse states for ongoing projects if Congress does not find a solution to the financial shortfall. The Highway Trust Fund’s solvency is especially relevant in Illinois where it funds 75 percent of the state’s annual transportation spending.
“This project is just one of hundreds across Illinois that would not be possible without federal funding,” Durbin said. “The American people don’t send us to Washington to shut things down. They send us there to keep things moving. It would be the height of irresponsibility to sit by and do nothing while the highway trust fund becomes insolvent. Yet, we are quickly approaching a deadline that will result in a serious financial shortfall to one of our nation’s most important infrastructure funds. That shortfall would have an impact on projects across Illinois. The workers out on Illinois’ roads and bridges are middle-class men and women working labor-intensive jobs to feed their families and put their kids through school,” Durbin said. “They don’t deserve not knowing whether or not they will be paid on time. And we don’t need another manufactured crisis to disrupt their lives.”
Senate Democrats have a bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund through the end of this year that includes revenue offsets that are non-controversial and have a history of bipartisan support. The bill will be marked up in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, has a proposal to fix the Highway Trust Fund by ending Saturday mail delivery at the U.S. Postal Service.
“The House of Representatives has an unrealistic Plan A that is dead on arrival in the Senate and no realistic Plan B. We are running out of time. I hope Republicans will take a fresh look at the non-controversial Senate plan and work with us to avoid another unnecessary shutdown,” Durbin said.
U.S. Census Bureau data shows the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure supports 138,701 full-time jobs in Illinois. These employees earn a total annual payroll of $5.7 billion and contribute an estimated $500 million in state and federal payroll tax revenue. This employment includes the equivalent of 69,000 full-time jobs directly involved in transportation infrastructure construction and related activities.
The state receives roughly $2 billion in annual transportation funds from the federal government. $1.4 billion of these funds are for highways, roads and bridges and come from the Highway Trust Fund.
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