Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, announced Tuesday that an agreement has been reached on a final funding package for fiscal year (FY) 2007. Included in the agreement is full funding of the SAFETEA-LU authorized level of $39.1 billion for the highway program, a $3.5 billion increase over the FY 2006 level. Transit also is fully funded at $8.97 billion, an increase of $470 million over the FY 2006 level. The announcement represents a major victory for the ready-mixed concrete and transportation construction industries that play vital roles in building our nation's transportation infrastructure.
The House is expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday, Jan. 31, and the Senate will take up the measure next week.
"Motorists from coast to coast should breath a sigh of relief because congress is keeping its promise to increase highway funding to fight congestion and increase safety," said Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance. "By fully spending our gasoline, diesel and truck taxes, the new Congress is strengthening the trust in the Highway Trust Fund."
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and transportation partners, including the Transportation Construction Coalition, Americans for Transportation Mobility and AASHTO, worked together with key allies in the Senate and House to generate support for this funding. AGC members responded quickly and vocally in contacting their elected representatives. Over 900 letters were generated through AGC's Legislative Action Center over a two-week period, in addition to the hundreds of individual contacts made directly by AGC members.
In the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) generated a letter signed by the entire committee in support of full funding. In the Senate, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent a letter to Senate Leadership requesting full funding. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) initiated an additional letter in support, which was ultimately signed by 72 Senators.
While the primary concern was that by not providing the full funding state departments of transportation would have to cut back on their scheduled lettings for the coming year, which would undermine efforts to meet growing transportation needs and impact jobs. Just as important was the funding-guarantee principle established in TEA-21, which was intended to ensure that highway user-fee revenue is fully invested each year in transportation improvements.
With this victory in hand AGC will now focus its attention on the President's budget request for FY 2008, which will be delivered the first week in February. Recent Congressional Budget Office projections indicate that Highway Trust Fund revenue may not be sufficient to continue to fully fund the SAFETEA-LU levels through FY 2009. AGC will be looking for ways to increase this revenue to cover this projected short fall.