Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says high gasoline prices are causing problems for a highway funding program. Americans are driving less and the program is falling short on funding since it’s based on federal gas taxes per gallon sold.
Grassley is pushing for a five billion dollar federal appropriation to make up the shortfall. He says lawmakers always intended to fully fund the program. "We thought we might come up short, so we made a commitment to make it what we call ‘whole,’" Grassley said. "That five billion dollar figure is standing out there."
The Senator says some Iowa highway projects could get delayed. "There’s several projects that are on the shelf, ready to go, that won’t go if they aren’t certain the money is coming…and we’re getting into the part of the year where they start issuing contracts for the next 12 months," Grassley said.
President Bush has threatened to veto a transportation bill that contains the five billion dollars in funding. Grassley says that doesn’t make sense, since the President agreed to the original five-year level of 286 billion dollars for highways.
"It’s within a policy he signed three or four years ago, so you would think he would have to not be against it at this point," Grassley said. The Senator says the shortfall highlights the need for alternative ways to fund highway construction other than the gasoline tax.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Harkin announced today that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the state of Iowa one million dollars in emergency funds for repairs to flood damaged roads and bridges.