Congress Making Progress As Continuation Deadline Approaches
Friday, March 9, 2012
A long awaited debate on passing a federal transportation reauthorization budget is occurring in both chambers of Congress. This week the U.S. Senate reached an agreement to consider 30 amendments in an effort to pass S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. In addition, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called for his colleagues to back a five-year reauthorization budget that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee had previously approved.
The Senate version is a two-year reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program that would provide inflation-adjusted fiscal year 2011 levels of investment and include policy reforms that would accelerate the delivery of transportation improvements while providing states new flexibility to meet national goals. The recent agreement would consider only 30 amendments, which is much fewer than were previously expected. The first eight amendments were voted on this past week, most of which were defeated and none of which had anything to do with transportation. The remaining amendments will be voted on next week as will final passage in the Senate.
Of the remaining amendments, many of them have a detrimental affect on our nations transportation system. Many reduce funding by significant levels and weaken the role of the federal government in developing and maintaining infrastructure throughout our nation. Some amendments include significant reductions in the federal gas tax and allow states to opt out of the federal highway program altogether. There are a couple of positive amendments that will be considered, including an amendment to expand tolling eligibility for states that would like to consider it as an additional way to raise revenues for infrastructure.
On the House side, it was reported recently that conservatives in the House would push for a shorter version than the Committee passed five-year proposal. However, several other Republicans in the House would like to stick to the five-year plan. It appears that the House Speaker urged his members to get behind the five-year bill to achieve the policy reforms Republicans have long supported, which include but are not limited to accelerating the environmental review process, ending earmarks, increasing state flexibility, and providing stability for the Highway Trust Fund.
Next week the House will be in recess and congressional delegates will likely be in their districts. MITA members are encouraged to take any opportunity they have to urge their representatives to support a multi-year transportation reauthorization budget.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Lance Binoniemi at email@example.com or call the MITA office at 517-347-8336.