Hurdles still remain in reauthorization process

News AASHTO Journal March 10, 2005
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Congressional staff instrumental in shaping surface-transportation legislation said the chances of passing a reauthorization bi

Congressional staff instrumental in shaping surface-transportation legislation said the chances of passing a reauthorization bill in the current Congress are good, but there are substantial hurdles to be overcome by the May 31 expiration of the current extension.


The panel of staff members provided their behind-the-scenes insight at the AASHTO Washington Briefing session. Speaking were Peter Rogoff, minority clerk of the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and General Government; Sherry Kuntz, special assistant to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Finance Committee; and Jason Lumia, budget analyst for the House Committee on the Budget.


Panelists agreed the minimum guarantee issue is the biggest hurdle for passage of the bill. The House bill does not yet include any distribution formulas.


"The House can move rapidly (on reauthorization) because of the rules," said Rogoff. "The (Senate) Environment and Public Works (committee) challenge is to satisfy a super-majority of senators at $284 billion."


Further complicating negotiations is the Congressional Budget Office projection of $256 billion in Highway Trust Fund revenues for the next six years, resulting in a $29 billion gap. Lumia said legislators will have to determine how to fill that gap. Given the projected budget deficit, highway spending will come under scrutiny, he said.


Aiding the reauthorization outlook is additional revenue from ethanol fuel tax and tax-evasion fixes passed by Congress last year, funneling another $24 billion into the Highway Trust Fund over the next six years.


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