Trust Fund accountnears insolvency

Citing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund account, the Transportation Secretary is asking Congress to approve pending legislation that will provide $8 billion to be used exclusively to cover the shortfalls--and have the measure on President Bush's desk before the end of next week.

According to the information from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Highway Administration was ordered by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to take immediate steps to protect the solvency of the highway account. The administration will begin making reimbursements to states on a weekly basis, instead of the twice daily cash reimbursements currently made, and on a pro-rated basis.

"If, for example, the Highway Administration only has funds available in the Highway Account to cover 80 percent of the requests we receive, they will pay only 80 percent of each," Peters said.

The following week, the administration will pay the balance of the money owed. And only then will it provide similar, pro-rated reimbursements for the new requests received that week, she said.

"So I am asking Congress to get to work on a fiscally responsible and effective transportation spending bill for the coming fiscal year--one that is free of waste and free of earmarks, and one that actually promotes solutions to our most pressing transportation challenges instead of ignoring them," Peters said.

Peters blamed the shortfall on Congress ignoring DOT's earlier warnings about the funding falling into the red; congressional approval of additional expenditures coupled with pet projects, new earmarks, or unrelated provisions on "must pass" legislation; and more money spent from the fund than was being brought in by federal gasoline taxes and other revenue sources.

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