Congress works on extensions

News ARTBA September 22, 2003
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The Senate Finance Committee has approved a five-month TEA-21 extension measure that would also compensate the Highway Trust Fu

The Senate Finance Committee has approved a five-month TEA-21 extension measure that would also compensate the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for foregone user-fee revenue due to ethanol motor fuel sales. The measure would extend U.S. DOT authority to distribute federal highway and transit funds to the states through Feb. 29, 2004.


The committee's ethanol proposal, led by Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Democrat Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would redirect the 2.5 cents per gallon of the ethanol excise currently deposited in the federal general fund to the HTF. It also would restructure the 5.2 cents per gallon user fee excise differential through a General Fund tax credit. Enactment of these two provisions would increase HTF Highway Account revenues by over $2 billion per year.


Legislation identical to the Grassley-Baucus ethanol proposal was introduced in the House by Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.). Co-sponsors of the Hulshof bill include House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Ranking Democrat Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), House Agriculture Committee Ranking Democrat Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) and House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa).


Leaders of the House T&I Committee introduced two separate proposals that would keep the federal highway and transit programs functioning while Congress completes work on a six-year TEA-21 reauthorization bill. One bill, introduced by the bipartisan leadership of the House T&I Committee, would extend the federal highway and transit programs for six months and is co-sponsored by 74 T&I Committee members. The second measure was introduced by T&I Committee Chairman Young and would extend the program five months.


Both measures include a mechanism that would allow state DOTs to be reimbursed for previously committed federal funds for three months beyond the duration of the extension. This mechanism is intended to remove the threat of a potential shut down of the highway and transit programs at the beginning of the 2004 construction season.


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