Congress again displays futility with highway bill

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Congress is showing its usual ineffectiveness, once again unable to develop a long-term strategy for one of the nation’s most pressing needs and instead opting for a short-term fix heavy on financial gimmicks.

The case in point this time is the nation’s Highway Trust Fund, which will run short of cash for infrastructure repairs and improvements if Congress and the president don’t approve a remedy by Aug. 1. The Transportation Department says that by the first week in August the government will begin to stretch out payments to states, initially reducing them by an average of 28 percent. That potentially could interrupt active projects and delay the start of others, meaning several hundred thousand jobs could be affected.

The possible funding reduction represents a major hit for states like West Virginia, which counts on about $425 million a year in federal highway funding to support nearly half of its road improvement and repair budget.

It used to be that Congress would consistently approve six-year laws to pay for work on roads, highways and bridges, giving states a blueprint for what to expect. But that has faded in the politically charged atmosphere in Washington. Congress passed nine short-term extensions between 2009 and 2012 before agreeing to the two-year bill that’s about to expire.

There seems to be little disagreement that the nation’s infrastructure needs help…

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