International Trade and Ports

House Dem Moves to Create Freight Trust Fund Amid Highway Fight

By Keith Laing

While lawmakers are scrambling to find a way to replenish the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) is moving to create a separate pot of money just for freight shipments.

Hahn is planning to file a bill on Wednesday that would create a National Freight Network Trust Fund. The measure would require that five percent of duties that are collected on imports to the U.S. be used to fill the new fund’s coffers.

Hahn’s office said the new trust fund “will create a dedicated funding source (as the highway trust fund has the gas tax)” for freight transportation.

“While the President proposes freight funding in his Grow America Act, he does not offer a funding source, so we want to offer a solution on how to get the funding,” Hahn’s office said in an email to The Hill.

“Rep. Hahn’s bill would transfer 5 percent of all import duties collected by [Customs and Border Protection] to trust fund,” the California lawmaker’s office continued. “CBP currently collects $38 billion. This would generate roughly $1.9 billion a year for our nation’s freight network.”

Hahn’s bill comes at a time when lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to supplement the existing Highway Trust Fund.

The traditional source for road and transit funding is revenue that is collected from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax. But the tax has been stagnant since 1993 and it has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses in recent years as cars have become more fuel efficient.

Lawmakers are trying to close a gap now that the transportation department has estimated to be around $16 billion per year before a bankruptcy that has been projected to occur next month.

Hahn effort to create a trust fund for freight transportation using revenue from customs fees follows an effort by House Republicans to use approximately $3.5 billion from the duty payments to bolster the Highway Trust Fund.

Lawmakers in the House are scheduled to hold a mark up on the transportation funding bill on Thursday morning.

No hearings have been scheduled yet on Hahn’s legislation.

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