Highway bills get major modifications

House may be redrafting infrastructure package to lower the price tag and restore mass transit's dedicated piece of federal fuel taxes

Funding News AASHTO Journal February 27, 2012
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When Congress returns to Washington today, members of both chambers should find significant changes to pending surface transportation reauthorization bills after behind-the-scenes negotiations went on last week during a recess for Presidents Day, AASHTO Journal reported.


House Republicans are reportedly redrafting an energy and infrastructure package to lower the $260 billion price tag, shorten the bill's five-year duration and eliminate a revenue provision that would end mass transit's dedicated piece of federal fuel taxes and separate account in the Highway Trust Fund, Politico reported Thursday. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a new package of amendments last Friday to add transit, revenue, safety and rail provisions to the two-year, $109 billion highway reauthorization bill currently pending on the floor.


"House Republican leaders are considering a revamped approach that would retain the speaker's vision of linking infrastructure to expanded American energy production," Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.


The House of Representatives began debating Feb. 15 a surface transportation and energy package, which was split into three parts after more than 300 amendments were filed with the House Rules Committee. Floor debate and amendments last week were limited to the energy provisions; work on the highway/transit and revenue sections was postponed. (See Feb. 17 AASHTO Journal story.)


"GOP leaders will now seek to put together a [shorter] transportation bill and leave the task of securing a longer one to the next president and the next Congress," Politico reported. "The House is also weighing a reduction in the bill's overall funding levels."


Other reports from sources on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have advised that work continues to proceed with a five-year bill but the key will be finding the necessary revenue offsets to fund it.


Transportation interests have expressed concern that funding reductions of as much as 5% from the previous bill version could be added on the House floor.


The latest extension to fund federal highway and transit programs is scheduled to expire March 31.

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