BURLINGTON FREE PRESS EDITORIAL: Highway fund needs long-term fix
Aki Soga, Free Press Editorial Page Editor
Sometimes, members of Congress needs to be told to simply do their job. That's exactly what Peter Welch, D-Vt., did in a speech in the U.S. House chamber admonishing his colleague for their fix to the Highway Trust Fund.
Congress is looking at a short-term fix that would be paid for in part by reducing employer contributions to pension funds to raise their tax bills.
The money that pays for fixing roads and bridges needs more than a patch to see politicians through the election.
Vermont's sole representative in the House took his colleagues to task on the House floor Tuesday for their short-sightedness saying the proposed quick fix "essentially creates a pothole in future pensions to fill potholes in our highways."
Welch's Washington speech echoed a theme he put forward on Monday at a Waterbury news conference, where he called the pension funding plan "worse than a gimmick."
The congressman is advocating for a long-term solution to shore up the trust fund. As the Free Press reported, Welch "has co-sponsored a bill that would raise the federal gas tax (which is now 18.4 cents) by 10 cents a gallon and another bill that would raise $19.5 billion over 10 years by ending corporations' ability to avoid paying taxes by moving certain functions overseas."
The trust fund is how America pays for the upkeep and upgrade of the nation's roadways. In Vermont, Washington's share comes to 80 to 90 percent of the cost of work on state roads and interstate highways.
The uncertainty over the federal money is hampering the state's ability to get as much work done before weather forced projects to shut down for the year.
The move toward a quick fix without addressing underlying causes of the funding problem is an all too typical of today's Washington.
The trend in Congress is to block anything that might even smell like a tax increase, regardless of the need. The inability to think beyond the next election and the lurching from crisis to crises is one of the worst consequences of Washington's deep partisan divide.
As Welch said in his speech, "Yes, it's always difficult to figure out what that revenue source is but, you know what, that difficulty is not an excuse for Congress to fail to do its job."
Someone had to say it.