Highways, Bridges and Roads

State transportation officials press for action in highway bill talks

{mosads}The chairwoman of the conference committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said recently that a majority of the issues involved in the proposed highway bill had been easy to resolve

“Approximately 80 percent of the [Environment and Public Works] title … is non-controversial,” Boxer said in a press conference last week. “The EPW title makes up about 80 percent of the entire bill, so this is a very substantial report I’m giving you.”

But Horsley said Thursday that his organization would resolve all the issues preventing a compromise on the transportation bill “without delay.”

“The nation’s economic recovery and the communities served by departments of transportation in every state are depending on Congress to do its job,” Horsley said.

A potential roadblock to an agreement emerged Thursday when conservative House member Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said he was introducing a motion to instruct House members of the conference committee to limit the spending levels of a compromise transportation bill to the approximately $35 billion that is brought in per year by the highway trust fund.

The two-year, $109-billion transportation bill that was passed earlier this year by the Senate spends about $13 billion more than is brought in each year by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax on gas that is used to fill the coffers of the highway trust fund, which traditional pays for federal transportation projects.

The conference committee is working to extend the Senate’s transportation bill with a pair of temporary extensions of current funding that were approved by the House.

The House’s original proposal was for a five-year, $260-billion transportation bill that also spent more per year than the highway trust fund’s annual intake.

The House proposed paying for the shortfall in transportation revenue by increasing domestic oil drilling, but the measure that would have authorized the funding (H.R. 7) was unable to pass in the lower chamber.

The current funding for highway and transit programs is scheduled to expire June 30. The House has passed a subsequent extension through Sept. 30, but that measure would have to also be approved by the Senate in order to become law.

Tags Barbara Boxer Paul Broun

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