Tag Archive for 'Federal Highway Trust Fund'

Statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs

ee0d071a-4431-491a-ae5f-0d9154114faeStatement Relating to Senate

Passage of the DRIVE Act

The following is a statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs Pete Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America regarding the Senate’s approval of a multi-year highway/transit bill:

“On behalf of the 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), we applaud the Senate for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill that would guarantee real growth in federal highway and public transportation investment over the next three years.  The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act would also assist state long-term transportation planning by distributing six years of contract authority.

“Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Inhofe and EPW Committee Ranking Member Boxer demonstrated exemplary leadership in finding the common ground necessary to earn overwhelming bipartisan support for the longest duration surface transportation bill approved by either chamber since 2005.  Furthermore, they accomplished this feat before the current short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires.

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.

“We appreciate House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s recent statement reiterating his commitment to producing a multi-year surface transportation bill soon.  Achieving this goal, however, will require House Republican leaders and the Ways & Means Committee to develop a bipartisan plan to generate the resources necessary to grow highway and public transportation investment.  This must be a priority focus over the next six weeks.

“Members of the TCC will spend the August recess making sure all House members hear from their constituents about the need for the House to pass a meaningful, long-term surface transportation bill in September to ensure a final measure can be enacted before the latest short-term extension expires.”

Highway Bill Happenings…

The House approved a three-month extension before leaving for its summer vacation. That was yesterday.

Today: Senate approves six-year highway bill.

THE HILL Reports:

The Senate passed its long-term highway bill Thursday, though their work on federal infrastructure funding isn’t over.

Senators voted 65-34 to approve the six-year bill, which funds federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years.

Democrats were split on the measure, with most of the caucus’s leadership voting against the bill negotiated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Fifteen Republican senators, including three 2016 presidential candidates, bucked McConnell and voted against the proposal.

The legislation also faces an uncertain future with the House, which has committed to passing its own long-term highway bill after the August recess.

In the meantime, the House has approved a three-month stopgap measure that the Senate is expected to approve later on Thursday.

That legislation also addresses a budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McConnell on Thursday cast the short-term measure as buying time for the House to put together its own long-term highway bill.

“The multi-year nature of this legislation is one of its most critical components. It’s also something the House and Senate are now united on,” he said. “We all want the House to have the space it needs to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation … in conference.”

Another hurdle for the bill with the House is that it would extend the Export-Import Bank for five years. Conservatives in the lower chamber want to prevent the bank’s charter from being renewed.

The legislation would be used to pay for about $47 billion of funding for the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund. That funding accounts for only the first three years of the legislation. Under the Senate bill, senators would have to determine by 2018 how to pay for the full six years.

In an effort to keep McConnell’s pledge to not increase the gas tax, the Senate’s bill includes a package of payfors including revenue from reducing interest rates paid by the Federal Reserve to large banks and selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, normally used to prevent energy crises.

But there’s more…

Senate sends three-month highway bill to Obama

The Senate on Thursday approved an $8 billion extension of federal transportation funding, sending it to President Obama’s desk with just one day to go before the nation’s road and transit spending expires.

The bill, which extends infrastructure spending until Oct. 29, passed in a 914 vote, pushing the debate into the fall.

Obama, who has advocated for long-term extension of highway funding, is expected to sign the patch to prevent an interruption in funding during the busy summer construction season.

The vote Thursday came after the Senate passed its preferred fix, a six-year highway bill negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

House Republicans refused to take up that bill and left town on Wednesday, forcing the Senate to accept the three-month stopgap.

Republican leaders in the Senate sought to downplay the squabbling between the chambers as they punted the highway debate to the fall.

“We all want the House to have the space to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation for the American people in a conference later this year, “McConnell said ahead of the vote.

McConnell touted the earlier vote to approve three years of funding as a victory.

“Many thought we’d never get there, but we have indeed,” he said, saying the Senate’s long-term highway bill “doesn’t raises taxes by a penny.”

“This is more than just another accomplishment for the Senate. It’s a win for our country because the bill would cut red tape and streamline regulation. It would modernize infrastructure and advance research and innovation,” McConnell said.

Democrats in the Senate complained about the House’s rejection of its long-term highway bill even as the chamber approved the temporary patch.

“This has been a long and winding road to get the point where we can pass a transportation bill that is a very good bill, that is very bipartisan,” said Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate in 2017.

“This person says, ‘I don’t like the process.’ And this one says, ‘I don’t like the pay-fors,’ ” Boxer continued. “But we know if we run into a construction worker who is unemployed and we say, ‘Well, we didn’t vote for this because we didn’t like the process,’ he would say, or she would say, ‘I need a paycheck.’ ”

The fight over road funding has cut across both parties, with Senate and House Republicans pitted against one another when it comes the idea — pushed strongly by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — of trying to negotiate a highway bill paid for by tax reform.

House Republicans earlier this month approved a five-month extension of highway funding, seeking to buy time for negotiations with the White House over a long-term bill that would be paid for with changes to tax policy.

But rather than take up the five-month bill, McConnell quickly brought his long-term plan to the floor over the objections of Democrats who complained they did not have enough time to read the measure.

Republicans leaders in the Senate predicted the House would be amenable to their long-term bill once lawmakers return from their summer recess.

“I think the House will end up taking up our bill,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, predicted ahead of the Thursday votes.

“In fact, I think a lot of the staff people are working on that right now over on the side,” he continued.

Inhofe said it was important for the Senate to have also passed the long-term bill to “encourage” the House to act.

“If we don’t pass the DRIVE [Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy] Act out of this chamber, then [what] we’re doing is reinforcing current law,” he said. “What is current law? Current law is short-term extensions.”

Congress is grappling with a funding shortfall for transportation that is estimated to be around $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasted longer than two years.

Passage of the three-month highway bill means that the Export-Import Bank’s charter will remain expired through the August recess. The three-month bill sent to Obama on Thursday does not include language on Ex-Im.

Aside from the highway extension, the temporary patch includes a provision allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to shift $3 billion within the agency to shore up a budget shortfall so hospitals and other facilities don’t close in August, aides said.

The legislation also would ensure that veterans with service-related disabilities are able to use health saving accounts.

Bottomline: Highway Bill Patch Number 34 is in place until October 29, 2015. Between now and then the House has a to accept, reject, modify or refine the Senate’s 6-year proposed bill.

THE HILL Reports: House passes three-month highway bill

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/249685-house-approves-three-month-highway-bill

The House voted Wednesday to approve an $8 billion bill that would extend federal transportation funding until the end of October, sending it to the Senate with just two days to go before the nation’s road and transit spending expires.

The bill passed in a 385-34 vote, with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voting present. Senators are expected to accept the patch to prevent an interruption in the nation’s infrastructure spending during the busy summer construction season.

The House is adjourning for the traditional August recess after the vote, forcing the Senate’s hand.

But senators are planning to stay in Washington next week, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to finish a six-year transportation bill to jumpstart conference negotiations on a final bill.

Republican leaders sought to downplay the squabbling between the chambers as they punted the highway debate to the fall.

“Sen. McConnell and I, while we have a disagreement over this bill — we’ve had one — we both want to get to a long-term highway bill,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said ahead of the vote.

“And Sen. McConnell and I have, frankly, worked very closely trying to minimize the differences,” he continued. “And so I’m confident as we get into this fall we’re going to have … pretty smooth sailing.”

The fight over road funding has cut across both parties, with Senate and House Republicans pitted against one another, and Democrats also divided in the Senate.

House Republicans earlier this month approved a five-month funding extension, seeking to buy time for negotiations with the White House over a long-term bill funded by tax reform.

But rather than take up the five-month bill, McConnell negotiated a long-term funding measure with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and quickly brought it to the floor.

While that measure is still expected to pass the Senate, it got a chilly reception from the House, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) refusing to bring it up for a vote.

The short-term funding measure that was approved on Wednesday would continue highway funding until Oct. 29, 2015 — setting up a new deadline for Congress when they return to Washington in September.

“We’ll conference the legislation we pass with what the House passes and then send a unified bill to President Obama,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech Wednesday.

“In the meantime, we’ll work with our friends in the House to give them the space they need to develop a multiyear highway bill,” McConnell continued. “We’ll take up that bill once the House sends it to us, and we’ll continue working in the interim to finish our own multiyear highway bill, a bill that’s fiscally responsible and won’t raise taxes by a penny.”

McConnell also sought to downplay the infighting between Republicans over the highway bill this week as he acquiesced to the House’s demand for a temporary patch.

“Late nights of vigorous legislating and sometimes unpredictable outcomes might make some reach for the aspirin, but these are the hallmarks of a functioning Congress,” he said.

“The push and pull between different parties, different members and different chambers is all just part of the democratic rhythm,” McConnell continued. “That’s especially true when you’re talking about a measure as complicated and consequential as a multiyear highway bill.”

Congress is grappling with a funding shortfall for transportation that is estimated to be around $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasted longer than two years.

The decision to fund highways for three months also means the Export-Import Bank’s charter will remain expired through the August recess.

The Senate highway bill includes a five-year renewal of the bank, which has run into opposition from conservatives but is backed by the White House, Democrats and a portion of the GOP.

But the House’s three-month bill does not include Ex-Im, leaving the bank in limbo.

The House patch includes language allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to shift $3 billion within the agency to shore up a budget shortfall so hospitals and other facilities don’t close in August, aides said.

The legislation also would ensure that veterans with service-related disabilities could use health saving accounts.

From THE HILL: House GOP to Senate: We’re not taking up your highway bill

From THE HILL:

 The House will not vote on a multi-year Senate highway bill that revives the now-expired Export-Import Bank, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday.

“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” McCarthy declared to a roomful of reporters in his office.

Instead, McCarthy urged the Senate to take up a short-term House-passed bill which extends federal highway funding for five months, without renewing the Ex-Im Bank charter. He called the House bill the “best option” for Congress before money for highways, bridges and mass transit runs out on Friday.

McCarthy’s declaration is a blow not only to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had teamed up to craft the bipartisan, long-term highway bill.

It’s also a blow to backers of the Ex-Im Bank, who had hoped the 81-year-old institution would be revived by catching a ride on the back of the Senate transportation bill. The charter for the bank, which provides loan guarantees to help U.S. corporations sell goods overseas, expired on June 30.

The Senate transportation bill authorizes highway funding for six years, but only provides three years in funding.

McCarthy, who controls the House floor schedule, said the lower chamber plans to leave for the August recess on Thursday. And he said it’s not fair for the Senate to send the House a massive 1,000-plus-page bill just days before the funding deadline.

Upon hearing about McCarthy’s remarks, Boxer, shot back at the fellow Californian, saying the House should follow the Senate’s lead and stay in session a week longer rather than decamp for the summer recess.

“You know what, we’re staying an extra week in August. You can stay an extra week in August. That’s not such a terrible thing,” Boxer said in a speech on the Senate floor.

McCarthy “says don’t send us a bill because we’re going home. Well, that’s their choice.

“If the House chooses to go out on vacation or a work period of whatever they do, that’s their business. But it’s our job to fix the problems we’re facing,” Boxer said.

Another way out of the funding mess is an even shorter-term highway bill, perhaps one that provides just two or three months of transportation funding. McCarthy didn’t rule out that possibility, but he made clear his chamber had already passed a more-preferable five-month patch that gives Congress enough time to hammer out a longer-term, House-Senate deal.

“The five-month extension is the best bill to have so you can get a long-term bill that is fully paid for,” McCarthy said.

Had Enough yet? 

Another short-term patch?

How safe do you feel when traveling on our roads?

…when you hit a pothole?

…when you hit a patch of road that’s rougher than a medieval cobblestone road?

…when you blow a tire?

…destroy a rim?

…put your life at risk?

 

Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system

Senate begins debate on highway bill, setting up weekend session

The Senate on Friday formally started debate on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s six-year highway bill, setting up a weekend session and putting the chamber on a collision course with the House.

Senators voted to proceed to the bill negotiated by McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a 51-26 vote that split both parties. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/249065-senate-begins-debate-on-highway-bill-setting-up-weekend-session

USA Today:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/23/highway-funding-oil-gasoline-tax-fix-congress-editorials-debates/30579385/

Without congressional action, highway funding will come to a halt at the end of July.

America has a transportation problem. Its highways and bridges are in desperate need of repairs. Its major population centers are in desperate need of road and rail capacity to get people and products out of traffic jams. And the Highway Trust Fund — used to build and maintain those roads, bridges and transit systems — is running short of cash. Without congressional action, federally financed projects will come to a halt at the end of this month.

Is there a solution to the problem? A fix? One that would/could work without increasing the taxes? In USA Today’s opposing view a reader responds with a solution that is an obvious solution, one that keeps staring us in the face; one that since the late 70s I have not heard expressed; one that Congress needs to look at and consider as a serious solution.

USA Today Opposing View:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/23/gas-tax-highway-trust-fund-club–growth-editorials-debates/30587867/

By David Mcintoish

Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system.

Raising the gas tax to prop up the Highway Trust Fund is like pumping gas into a junkyard car. For every $1 of gas tax, Washington wastes 20% to 30% in needless federal regulations that jack up highway construction costs.

Here’s a better idea: Instead of charging motorists more to feed a broken system, let’s fix the system. And step one is to push politicians in Washington, D.C., to the side of the highway funding road.

The current federal funding scheme for highways takes your gas tax money to Washington, lops off a big chunk to pay for federal bureaucracy, and then inefficiently redistributes some of those dollars back to the states for roads. The problem is the federal middleman.

Projects handled at the federal level are rife with costly regulations, such as the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 that drives up labor costs. The price tag for highway work is also increased by federal environmental rules and duplicative planning studies.

Every state has its own Department of Transportation that studies, plans and executes the road projects that matter most to that state. Why do they need the waste, inefficiency and redundancy that arise from the federal layer of bureaucracy?

This year, the Highway Trust Fund will spend more than $50 billion, including billions for non-highway projects, and will run at a deficit of more than $10 billion. The primary focus in Congress — as it has been for years — is on finding new ways to fund that deficit, instead of looking for ways to stop the spending that causes the deficit.

Let’s drop this nonsense of raising the gas tax. Congress should leave the money and responsibility for road construction and repairs where they belong — back at the state and local levels. One good proposal to do that already exists; it’s the Transportation Empowerment Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.

Their legislation would gradually eliminate the federal gas tax, while giving states the accountability and responsibility to identify and undertake highway projects, using infrastructure funds that would be kept at home instead of wasted in Washington.

David McIntosh is president of the Club for Growth.

This approach probably makes more sense than other solutions if Congress would:

  1. Leave the federal gas tax as it is
  2. Feep the money in the state fund
  3. Legislatively tag the money so that it cannot be used for anything but road work
  4. Phase out the administration of the tax at the federal level
  5. Re-define the role of FHWA as an administrative overseer of highway design, safety regulations etc.
  6. Eliminate all the Federal “hoops” required to do Interstate road work