This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

For all the sins of the Bush Administration, this is the transit-fan equivalent of killing puppies for sport:

The bulk of funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund comes from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax. But revenues from the tax have flattened out, likely because people are driving less due to the price of gas and because cars have become more fuel efficient in the 14 years since the federal gas tax was last increased.

White House budget officials said the Highway Trust Fund will have a roughly $3 billion surplus in the current fiscal year. But by the end of fiscal 2009 it will be running a $3.9 billion deficit.

“There are challenges,” said Christin Baker, a spokeswoman for the federal Office of Management and Budget, which writes the president’s annual budget proposal. “We can’t spend what we don’t have.”

When Congress proposed raising the federal gasoline tax by 4 cents per gallon several years ago, President Bush threatened a veto and urged lawmakers to curb spending.

In its latest budget proposal, the administration suggested as a temporary solution that money from the federal mass transit trust fund account, which is running a surplus, be transferred to the highway account to cover the anticipated shortage.

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