GOP’s Lunatic Plan for Funding Transportation Draws Nothing But Scorn

House Republicans announced on Friday the latest in a long line of hare-brained schemes for funding the Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to become insolvent in August. Their ingenious proposal is to pay for transportation by making cuts at the post office.

You wouldn't be seeing many of these on Saturdays if the GOP transportation funding plan went through. Photo: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Small_USPS_Truck.jpg##Wikipedia##
What does postal delivery have to do with transportation funding? Nothing, unless you’re a House Republican. Photo: Wikipedia

This idea didn’t come from some Tea Party fringe of the GOP. It came straight from leadership: House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

In a memo to party members, they called the plan “the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner.” They say they can extend the current transportation bill by one year and offset the cost by reducing Saturday delivery. The proposal would save an estimated $10.7 billion over 10 years. Republicans have chided Democrats for offsetting MAP-21 — a two-year bill — with 10 years’ worth of savings, but now they seem prepared to do it themselves.

The other part of the GOP proposal would transfer funds from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund — also pillaged for MAP-21 — to the HTF. The LUST Trust Fund gets revenue from 0.1 cent of the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, but underground fuel storage tanks must be pretty leakproof lately because the fund is flush with money.

Altogether, the proposal would come up with between $14 and $15 billion to fill the gap between transportation spending and Highway Trust Fund receipts.

For the past few years, the idea of eliminating or reducing Saturday mail delivery has come up a number of times. But under those proposals, the savings would shore up the financially shaky U.S. Postal Service itself, which has lost $41 billion in the last six years — not transportation.

The Senate EPW Committee has unanimously passed a six-year transportation bill, though that committee has no idea how the bill would be paid for and is counting on the Finance Committee to come up with a solution. Just about everyone with a dog in the fight, including the reform coalition, is pushing hard for a long-term bill. A one-year extension, no matter how it’s funded, is a highly unpopular option.

The House GOP’s extension is especially unpopular because of the way it’s funded. Democrats have called it “strange,” “unworkable,” and a “non-starter.” The mail carriers’ union said the proposal “would begin dismantling the Postal Service” and “wouldn’t even work if tried.” Even the Greeting Card Association has taken a stand, calling the plan “misguided.”

Looks like yet another GOP funding gimmick destined for the dustbin.

Not that Republicans have cornered the market on transportation funding gimmicks, of course.

  • Sunny Zheng

    This makes no sense to me, because the Postal Service receives no federal subsidy. So how exactly is cutting Saturday delivery going to increase the general fund?

  • andrelot

    The underground tank fund has, indeed ,excess money because, as time passes, more and more storage tanks were built according to standards passed in the early 1990s to avoid soil contamination when they are de-commissioned.

  • C Monroe

    Also the deficit USPS currently is running is because of a law that congress made for the USPS to fund its retirement 75 years out. No other entity does this. Yes there are some money loosing aspects of the business but through package delivery the post office has offset some of the money loosing parts. Maybe they should eliminate Saturday service and group mail boxes together by the block in neighborhoods(I have a niece that is a letter carrier and she even admits this should be done). This would eliminate some jobs or at least free up labor to focus more on the more lucrative package delivery business. UPS and FedEx already ship non next day air packages through the post office(there are pics of their trucks dropping off and picking up packages from post offices), obviously USPS has more connections to move packages.

  • R.A. Stewart

    A law, as I understand it, that Congressional Republicans poison-pilled into the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 precisely in order to put a crippling fiscal burden on the Postal Service. Or because they were so terribly concerned about the retirement of unionized workers, many of whom had not even been hired yet. Take your pick.

    “The mail carriers’ union said the proposal ‘would begin dismantling the Postal Service’ …”

    That being, again, the point.

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