On Monday, Feb. 22, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally got a passing vote of 62-30 on a proposal aimed at creating jobs. The proposal contains bonds for infrastructure spending and calls for highway programs to be funded through Dec. 31.
The current extension (the second on the bill that expired (September 2009) is expires on February 28, 2010. Without a new highway trust fund bill our transportation infrastructure will continue its current rate of deterioration. The country needs a bill that we can build on, not pothole patches that will pot out the first time they are exposed to serious traffic.
The Reid bill, in the form of a Senate amendment to House bill HR2847, was scaled down from a larger jobs bill offered by Sens. Max Baucus, D-MT, and Charles Grassley, R-IA.
The U.S. House passed HR2847 back in December 2009. Because the Reid amendment alters some of the bill language and deadlines, the two chambers must agree on final language before sending the jobs bill to President Obama’s desk for signature.
Some of the language difference is that HR2847 calls for an extension of current highway spending through Sept. 30 of this year, while the current amendment in the Senate version calls for the extension to last through Dec. 31.
The Highway Trust Fund, as it is currently funded, has been operating on a series of temporary extensions since September 2009.
The Reid amendment calls for the federal government to issue Build America Bonds to pay for large-scale infrastructure projects. The amendment also contains provisions for small businesses to expense equipment as a tax write-off and calls for a payroll tax holiday to help employers retain workers.
As the House and Senate prepare to tackle the final language, both chambers continue to work on a long-term highway bill that will eventually cover the next five or six years of transportation policy and funding.