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Murray Warns of Looming Highway Trust Fund Crisis, Calls for Multi-Year Fix to Provide Certainty

Apr 08 2014

Murray: “Congress must act to avoid this construction shutdown. There is no reason to lurch to another avoidable crisis when workers and families across the country are still struggling.”

“Americans are sick and tired of Washington, D.C’s dysfunction and constant crises…we must act to prevent a construction shutdown this summer” 

Murray calls for closing wasteful corporate tax loopholes to avoid crisis, invest in jobs and economic growth

In her speech, Murray talked about the fact that investments in the Highway Trust Fund have received bipartisan support in the past and called on her colleagues to work with her toward a bipartisan solution once again. She highlighted recent proposals from Democrats and Republicans to use corporate revenue to shore up the Highway Trust Fund, and proposed using that approach and closing wasteful corporate loopholes to give states multi-year certainty to plan transportation investments to create jobs and long-term economic growth.

Key Excerpts from Murray’s Speech:

“…if Congress doesn’t act, we are headed toward another crisis in just a few months. Not a budget crisis this time—but a construction shutdown that could ramp up when the Highway Trust Fund reaches critically low levels, and get worse and worse if we don’t solve the problem.”

“…since the mid-1950s, our nation has relied on the Highway Trust Fund to support transportation projects – projects that create jobs and keep our economy moving…But as soon as July – just a few months from now – the Department of Transportation predicts the Highway Trust Fund will reach a critically low level. If this isn’t resolved, construction projects to improve our roads and bridges could shut down and leave workers without a paycheck.”

“This crisis could also cost jobs. Construction is at its peak in the summer months. But without funding, states might have no choice but to stop construction and leave workers without a job. This would hurt communities with needless delays on the very improvements that would help businesses and spur economic growth. This is unacceptable, and it’s unnecessary. Congress must act to avoid this construction shutdown. There is no reason to lurch to another avoidable crisis when workers and families across the country are still struggling.”

“Fortunately, we can solve this in a way that should have bipartisan support. President Obama and House Republican Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, have both proposed using corporate revenue to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. That approach makes a lot of sense. By closing wasteful corporate tax loopholes, we can support improvements to our roads and bridges that will benefit everyone, including big businesses so they can move their products quickly and efficiently, and make our broken tax code a bit fairer in the process. “

“Six months ago, our communities and families endured a needless government shutdown. Americans are sick and tired of Washington, D.C’s dysfunction and constant crises. There’s no reason for Congress to put them through anything even remotely similar, especially over transportation projects that will benefit families, communities, and the economy. We must act to prevent a construction shutdown this summer.”

 

Full Text of Murray’s Speech:

“Thank you, Mr. President.

“Last October, families and communities across the country were forced to endure a completely unnecessary government shutdown.

“Coming after years of budget uncertainty and constant crises, the shutdown hurt workers.

“It threatened the fragile economic recovery.

“And it shook the confidence of people across the country who expected their elected officials to come together to avoid such a needless and self-inflicted crisis.

“It was a dark time here in Congress.

“And I think many of my colleagues regret letting a Tea Party minority push us into it.

“Mr. President, when the shutdown finally ended, I sat down with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in a budget conference that many of us had been trying to start for months.

“We worked through the issues. We compromised.

“And we reached a two year budget deal that rolled back devastating cuts from sequestration, prevented another government shutdown, and restored some much-needed certainty to the budget process.

“That budget deal was a strong step in the right direction. But it wasn’t the only step Congress needs to take to create jobs and economic growth. And it wasn’t the only step we need to take to ensure we don’t lurch to another avoidable crisis.

“Because Mr. President, if Congress doesn’t act, we are headed toward another crisis in just a few months.

“Not a budget crisis this time—but a construction shutdown that could ramp up when the Highway Trust Fund reaches critically low levels, and get worse and worse if we don’t solve the problem.

“So I come to the floor today to call on my colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – to work together to avert this looming crisis, and to do it in a common-sense way that gives states the multi-year certainty they need to plan projects, invest in their communities, and create jobs.

“Mr. President, since the mid-1950s, our nation has relied on the Highway Trust Fund to support transportation projects – projects that create jobs and keep our economy moving.

“The fund helps repave roads, so they aren’t pockmarked with potholes. It helps ease congestion on our nation’s clogged highways.  And it helps repair bridges that are outdated and unsafe.

“But as soon as July – just a few months from now – the Department of Transportation predicts the Highway Trust Fund will reach a critically low level.

“If this isn’t resolved, construction projects to improve our roads and bridges could shut down and leave workers without a paycheck.

“And Mr. President, we’re already seeing some consequences from this crisis.

“In Arkansas, 10 construction projects, like building highway connections and replacing bridges, have already been put on hold.

“In Colorado, the state wants to widen a major highway to ease congestion between Denver and Fort Collins.

“But officials there say with the funding shortage in the Highway Trust Fund, that project could be delayed.

“Those aren’t isolated cases. More states, from Vermont to California, might have to stop construction in its tracks because of the Highway Trust Fund shortfall.

“This crisis could also cost jobs. Construction is at its peak in the summer months. But without funding, states might have no choice but to stop construction and leave workers without a job.

“This would hurt communities with needless delays on the very improvements that would help businesses and spur economic growth.

“Mr. President—this is unacceptable—and it’s unnecessary. Congress must act to avoid this construction shutdown.

 

“There is no reason to lurch to another avoidable crisis when workers and families across the country are still struggling.

“We need to ensure construction can continue this summer. We need to support workers. And we need to deliver a multi-year solution for the Highway Trust Fund.

“Fortunately, we can solve this in a way that should have bipartisan support. 

“President Obama and House Republican Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, have both proposed using corporate revenue to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.

“That approach makes a lot of sense.

“By closing wasteful corporate tax loopholes, we can support improvements to our roads and bridges that will benefit everyone, including big businesses so they can move their products quickly and efficiently, and make our broken tax code a bit fairer in the process.

“We can start by taking a close look at the tax loopholes that House Republicans proposed closing in Chairman Camp’s recent plan.

“Replenishing the Highway Trust Fund with revenue raised by closing wasteful corporate loopholes will provide multi-year funding, so we can provide states with more certainty to plan.

“That kind of certainty has been absent for too long. And it has forced states to hold off on bigger projects that that will create jobs and long-term economic growth. 

“So I’m hopeful Democrats and Republicans can work together to restore some certainty to states around the country.

“I know bipartisan support is possible – especially on an issue as important as this one.

“Since the Highway Trust Fund’s inception under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republicans and Democrats have come together to invest in this national priority.

“Under Democratic and Republican presidencies, from President Kennedy to President Reagan to President Clinton, we’ve updated and supported the Highway Trust Fund.

“Even two years ago, in a hyper-partisan election year, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement, so we could continue to build the roads, bridges and transit systems states and communities need.

“In the past, Republicans and Democrats have stepped up to support workers, and to ensure that we continued to invest in our transportation systems that put workers on the job, help businesses move their goods, and help our economy grow.

“And now, there is no reason to wait until the last minute to get this done.  The threat is growing for construction sites and jobs across the country. And we ought to give states and communities the confidence that Congress won’t push them into another crisis.

“Mr. President, six months ago, our communities and families endured a needless government shutdown. Americans are sick and tired of Washington, D.C’s dysfunction and constant crises.

“There’s no reason for Congress to put them through anything even remotely similar, especially over transportation projects that will benefit families, communities, and the economy.

“We must act to prevent a construction shutdown this summer.

“So let’s build on the common ground that Democrats and Republicans share on this issue.

“Let’s work together to show the American people that Congress can act to support workers, families, and communities. 

“Let’s prevent a construction shutdown and give the Highway Trust Fund some certainty, so states can keep investing in jobs and economic growth.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”