Despite President Barack Obama’s push for a new six-year highway funding bill with some teeth—$556 billion over six years—members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee were talking about pulling a few molars from the strategy during the first of 12 field hearings on Feb. 14.
The premier event was held in Charleston, W.Va., and included T&I Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.). The current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires on March 4, and the House committee hinted at issuing another six-month extension before attempting to pass the next long-term highway bill. T&I Committee Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), however, said the House plan is to move legislature through that will be significantly less than former T&I Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar’s $500 billion plan, which was never voted on. Rahall even went as far as to say the final funding amount could only be about $250 billion.
“There is a new atmosphere in Washington,” Mica said. “It’s very difficult to get votes to the floor that aren’t reducing some programs.”
Those who attended the public forum did not like that answer, and pressed the T&I Committee to raise the federal gas tax.
Mica said charging more at the pump was a dead issue, but seemed determined to get another six-year bill passed as soon as possible.
“It may not have everything in it that you want or I want,” he said, “but we’re going to get one come hell or high water.”