A rather exasperated President Barack Obama pressed Congress to find a solution to the looming Highway Trust Fund crisis, arguing “it’s not socialism” to want to build new highways and bridges in the country.
“It’s not crazy. It’s not socialism. It’s not the imperial presidency,” Obama said Tuesday afternoon during a speech in front of the Georgetown waterfront with the Key Bridge in the background. “We’re just building roads and bridges, like we have for the past 50 years.”
The Highway Trust Fund is a transportation and infrastructure fund financed by gasoline taxes. It is headed towards insolvency because the government now spends more money on those projects than it collects from the gas tax, which has not been raised in over 20 years.
The Obama administration has proposed a four-year, $US302 billion solution to the highway crisis, which would end the trust fund’s dependence on the gas tax and replenish it through tax reforms. It was a plan Obama pushed Tuesday, while blaming the fund’s precarious position on Republican inaction.
“It’s not like they have been busy with other stuff! No, seriously,” Obama said.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are still divided on both a short-term solution to finance highway projects through the rest of the year and a long-term fix for the shortfall. Two senators introduced a bipartisan plan to incrementally raise the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax, however there is little political appetite for such a move in an election year.
Obama repeated a warning that more than 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress does not figure out how to replenish the nearly depleted trust fund. In a letter to state officials Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned Tuesday the fund would run dry sometime next month, at the height of the summer travelling and construction season.
Also on Tuesday, Foxx warned the Obama administration will begin delaying reimbursements to states for infrastructure projects on Aug. 1 if Congress cannot come up with a solution.
In his remarks, Obama laid the blame for the looming crisis on congressional Republicans, tying it to his recent complaints they aren’t passing enough legislation to solve problems. Obama also said, in general, that he would continue to pursue the use of executive actions where he saw opportunity, making light of House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to file a lawsuit against him.
“So sue me!” he said. “As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologise for doing something.”
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