Budget impasse forces furloughs at US Department of Transportation

The Department said Monday 2,000 workers would be subject to the measure, a response to Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning's decision to block legislation that would have extended the budget authority for several government programmes, including the Department's Highway Trust Fund.

The US Department of Transportation said Monday it would furlough 2,000 workers without pay as a result of an impasse over a budget resolution that would have extended the budget authority for the department's highway programme.

The Department said that the move would temporarily shut down reimbursements to states for their federally-funded highway projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The furlough is a response to Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning's decision to block legislation that would have extended the budget authority for several government agencies, including the Department of Transportation's Highway Trust Fund. The Fund is used to make the reimbursements to states for highway work through the Federal Highway Administration.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement he was “keenly disppointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country”.

The Highway Trust Fund's budget authority can be reinstated early this week if the House passes the so-called Jobs Bill, a $15 billion economic stimulus measure that has a budget extension in it through the end of the year. The Senate has already passed the bill.