Congress fights over minimum guarantee

News AASHTO Journal April 08, 2004
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House and Senate conferees will be facing an issue that came close to scuttling the House reauthorization bill--the size of the

House and Senate conferees will be facing an issue that came close to scuttling the House reauthorization bill--the size of the minimum guarantee percentage return and the scope to which the guarantee is applied.


Achieving an increase in the minimum guarantee from 90.5% in TEA-21 to 95% has been a top priority for donor states, which succeeded six years ago in TEA-21 in raising the percentage from 85 to 90.5%. But House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members maintained that the $100 billion reduction in the size of the House bill--from $375 billion to $275 billion--eliminated their ability to raise the percentage.


Exacerbating donor states concerns was the fact that while the minimum guarantee covered 93% of highway funds under TEA-21, under the House bill it would apply to only 84% of the highway program. That is a result, in part, of the addition of new setasides and new programs, which reduced the percentage of funding devoted to the five "core" formula programs.


The House defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) which would have subtracted the amount that states receive in High Priority Project earmarks from their formula totals for the Surface Transportation Program. A second attempt to broaden the coverage of the minimum guarantee was a bipartisan amendment offered several representatives. The sponsors argued that the TEA-LU would take a step backward in minimum guarantee since it would apply to only 84% of the total highway program. The amendment proposed to increase apportioned funds by distributing by formula some $9 billion that would otherwise go to projects. It "assumed" that $2.5 billion in undistributed high priority project funds and $6.6 billion in undistributed Project of National Significance Funds be put out by formula, and that core programs also would increase by $3 billion as a result in the reduced level of funds required for a minimum guarantee adjustment.


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