The 112th Congress hadn't even gaveled in when a broad group of transportation and labor organizations assailed House Republicans for changing the rules to limit how the highway trust fund is used in spending bills. The groups--including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Laborers International Union of North America--claim the change will "sever the user-financed basis of the Highway Trust Fund, and make annual federal highway and transit investments subject to the whims of the appropriations process."
For House Republican leaders, it's about making sure spending on transportation projects is limited to the money available. That could be a big problem for anyone, including President Obama, who believes immediate infrastructure spending is essential to improving the economy, not to mention maintaining a road and bridge system that will keep its travelers safe.
So what's the solution? Is there a way to stay within a budget and also maintain adequate maintenance of the nation's highways and runways? Is the "user-fee" model of financing outdated, and if so, what should replace it? Politically, is it really that easy for congressional appropriators to cut transportation funding, as AASHTO and other organizations fear? Or are those groups crying wolf?