Senate EPW Committee offers glimpse of next highway bill

Group calls for $339 billion investment, hopes it reaches floor by July 4 recess

News Reuters May 26, 2011
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The Senate finally released an outline of its version of the next long-term highway bill, and it’s safe to say the Congressional branch has found a middle ground.

The proposed $339 billion measure is far short of President Barack Obama’s $556 billion call to action, but it also is far bigger than what the House is putting together.
Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was hoping to put more meat on the bone, but the financial options were limited.

“We said to [the administration] that if you can show us the money, we’re happy to look at [a $556 billion bill],” she told reporters. “But right now there isn’t any.”

The Senate also is taking a look at creating a separate bill that would create the much talked about national infrastructure bank, which would carry an annual appropriation of $5 billion. Obama’s wish for a $53 billion cash infusion on high-speed rail also will be addressed separately.

The EPW Committee now places the ball in the court of the Senate’s Finance Committee, which will have the arduous task of figuring out how the $339 billion will be raised. Boxer did say the bill would take current funding levels, adjust for inflation and then would tack on an additional $1 billion a year toward a transportation financing program that gives direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit to projects with dedicated revenue streams.

The EPW Committee hopes the Senate begins debate of the bill before the July 4 recess.

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