South Carolina has serious highway funding problems - too many road needs, not enough money. But the federal government's road funding situation is nothing short of dire as its Highway Trust Fund approaches insolvency. A bipartisan solution is required, and soon.
The White House recently issued a fact sheet saying that the exhaustion of the trust fund would imperil 112,000 projects and lead to the loss of 700,000 jobs.
Regrettably, the president has chosen to take a partisan tack on the issue, blaming congressional Republicans. His time would be better spent advancing a solution.
More revenue is required, but even a small hike in the gas tax is unlikely in an election year, particularly with the Senate at stake.
A second solution that actually has bipartisan support in Congress would give the trust fund part of windfall tax receipts from a reform bill allowing repatriation of overseas profits of American corporations on a favorable tax basis.
But the tax reform legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where the Democratic leadership apparently has decided that no major bills will be enacted this year.
A third approach would be to generally reconsider the entire federal-aid highway program, recognizing the average fuel economy of American cars is making gains that allow the gas tax to provide only part of the solution, absent a major hike.
Additional revenue could be obtained by tolls on interstate highways and federally funded urban freeway systems. Tolls are now being collected electronically in some metro areas, with congestion pricing. And like the gas tax, tolls are a user fee.
A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office found that if Congress authorized all pending highway projects with a positive cost-benefit ratio the current federal highway spending rate of $40 billion a year would have to be doubled.
But a thorough rewrite of the federal-aid highway program is highly unlikely this year.
So Congress will probably have to get together on an emergency appropriation - the standard reaction to a depleted trust fund.
This is one bill that neither Senate nor House, Republican nor Democrat, should stall.