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Congressmen split vote on highway funding bill : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Congressmen split vote on highway funding bill
Foster a 'yes' on temporary fix; Hultgren only Illinois lawmaker to vote 'no'

by Tony Scott


The two Congressmen representing Kendall County voted in different ways last week on a bill that would save funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The House voted 367-55 last week on H.R. 5021, sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. It is expected that the Senate could vote on the measure this week.

While Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, voted in favor of the measure, Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield Township, voted against it.

The measure will authorize appropriations for highway funding through the end of next May, as a temporary solution.

The fund is "nearing insolvency," according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"With the Highway Account expected to become insolvent by the end of August, the Department of Transportation will implement a cash management plan beginning Aug. 1 to manage the flow of federal dollars," officials said. "Under this plan, reimbursements to states for infrastructure work will be limited to the available cash in the Trust Fund. We will distribute incoming funds in proportion to each state's federal formula apportionment in the fiscal year."

The trust fund issue could potentially impact payment on state highway projects, according to a letter sent by federal Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx to state transportation secretaries earlier this month.

"The department will continue to take every possible measure to fully reimburse your state for as long as we can," Foxx wrote. "However, as we approach insolvency, the department will be forced to limit payments to manage the reduced levels of cash available in the Trust Fund. This means, among other things, that the Federal Highway Administration will no longer make 'same-day' payments to reimburse states."

Following the vote, Foster acknowledged that it was a "short-term" solution but said it was needed. He pointed out that Illinois receives nearly 75 percent of its funding for road projects from the Highway Trust Fund.

"While I am disappointed this is another short-term patch instead of a long-term funding bill, I am relieved that the House was able to pass this critical jobs bill," he said. "The Highway Trust Fund supports construction projects throughout the United States, including important investments in the 11th Congressional District."

However, Foster added that a long-term solution is needed.

"Investing in transportation and infrastructure is essential to ensuring businesses have the resources they need to thrive," he said. "While this was an important step to protect the Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt, and to continue planning for long-term construction projects, it is critical that we pass a funding bill that addresses our long-term needs."

However, Hultgren said the bill "fails to address the underlying funding problems" with the trust fund, calling it a "six-month measure based on budgetary gimmicks."

Hultgren was the only Illinois congressman - Republican or Democrat - to vote against the bill.

"Unfortunately, this bill doesn't adequately address the long-term funding issues that concern my constituents in the 14th District," he said. "While I do appreciate the efforts of my colleagues in the House, we cannot keep filling the same pothole over and over again and expect a different result. Instead, we must pave a new way forward with a plan that creates a self-sustaining funding mechanism."

Both Foster and Hultgren are facing opponents in the November election, with Foster facing state Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville, and Hultgren facing Democrat Dennis Anderson of Gurnee.

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