North Country Congressman Owens votes for $11 billion stopgap highway fund measure
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 2:33 pm

North Country Congressman Bill Owens has voted to adopt a short-term solution to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.

The measure was approved by a wide majority of Democrats and republicans in the House.

If similar legislation is approved by the Senate, it will provide about $11 billion in infrastructure funding expected to last until spring of 2015.

Owens, the Plattsburgh Democrat who has opted not to run again for the 21st District seat, said he hopes the House and Senate can work out any differences so final action can be taken as soon as possible.

“The Highway Trust Fund is a critical pillar supporting many industries throughout our district, state, and nation,” said Owens. “While this is not the permanent solution I had hoped for, it is an important step that keeps people employed and allows us to maintain critical infrastructure. Every business and every worker in this country depends in some way on the transportation of goods and services over a network of roads and bridges.”

The federal Highway Trust Fund provides funding for projects that support an estimated 700,000 jobs across the U.S. Its funding comes primarily from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline sales. That tax is not indexed to inflation and has not been increased since 1993. It also does not account for rapidly increasing fuel consumption standards. These factors have contributed to a growing deficit for the fund that will soon exhaust its remaining balance.

The current transportation bill includes about $50 billion in annual infrastructure spending while the gas tax only provides about $34 billion in revenue, a deficit of $16 billion every year that has depleted the fund, now with only about $2 billion remaining.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had announced plans to reduce payments to state and local governments next month if the fund was not replenished.

According to the governor’s office, the Highway Trust Fund supports 49 projects across New York’s 21st Congressional District representing $130 million in federal funding and $164 million in total cost. These projects include numerous repairs on bridges throughout the district. These projects creates hundreds of good construction jobs in northern New York.