TEA-21 debate halted for recess

News AGC May 02, 2005
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The Senate has put aside consideration of the TEA-21 reauthorization bill to complete action on the Congressional budget resolution and will take up the measure the week of May 9 following a one-week recess. Before adjourning the Senate narrowly rejected by a vote of 49 to 51 an amendment by Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo.) to strike a provision of the bill that would require 2% of each state's Surface Transportation Program (STP) funding to be set aside for storm-water mitigation activities. That provision would result in the diversion of $900 million in highway funding for storm-water mitigation activities. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the Transportation Construction Coalition worked in support of the Bond amendment. States already have the option of using up to 20% of project funds to mitigate storm-water concerns related to the project.

When the Senate resumes consideration of TEA-21 reauthorization, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Democrat Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will offer their amendment to increase funding above the $284 billion level currently in the bill. AGC is working in support of this amendment.

Other significant amendments AGC anticipates include:

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will offer an amendment allowing state laws that restrict contractors that have made political contributions to state and local politicians from bidding on public contracts to apply to the federal-aid highway program.

Currently, a New Jersey statute limits competition by blocking anyone who makes political contributions of more than $300 from bidding on any contract that exceeds $17,500. Under current federal law, this state statue cannot be applied to the federal-aid highway program. The Lautenberg amendment would do away with this restriction and allow this and similar state laws to apply to contracts funded by the reauthorization bill.

AGC opposes the Lautenberg amendment as a violation of the First Amendment right to petition the government and a restriction on competition.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) will offer an amendment to prevent the use of tolls on interstate segments where no new capacity is added to the roadway. The Senate bill currently allows broad flexibility to states in making decisions about the use of tolls to improve segments of the interstate.

States are faced with increasing transportation improvement needs and increasing construction costs resulting from a variety of factors. Automobiles and other vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient and some are using alternative fuel not readily subject to a user fee. AGC is advocating allowing states the broadest flexibility they need to raise the revenue needed to improve highway and bridge conditions and therefore opposes the Hutchison amendment.

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