Highway bill delayed; funding runs out this week

Highway bill delayed; funding runs out this week

This Congress is known for leaving legislation until the last minute, and the Transportation bill is no exception. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had said he would take up the measure last week, but the process got bogged down in amendments and alternative versions before the Senate adjourned for the week early Thursday afternoon. The Highway Trust Fund, which funds infrastructure projects, is projected to run out of money this week, August 1, as Congress is scheduled to take a five-week recess.

The House had previously passed a short-term $11 billion bill that would last until next May, forcing the new Congress (theoretically) to make tough decisions about where the funding for a longer term solution would come from. The Senate discussed an even shorter term extension, until just after the midterm elections. And amid calls by transportation groups like the American Automible Association to raise the gas tax to bring the Highway Trust Fund back in line with infrastructure needs, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced an amendment to lower the tax, from 18.4 cents a gallon currently to 3.7 cents in five years.

The White House has endorsed the House bill, as best can be ascertained for now. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, speaking last week at the National Press Club, said a short-term fix is not enough.

–Itês hard to imagine that Congress will not push the snooze button on this issue when itês crunch time,” Foxx said. –Every year that Congress puts off passing a long-term funding solution, the cost of catching up grows further and further out of reach.”

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