At a campaign stop in Missouri, President Bush said he still hopes to see Congress pass a six-year transportation bill, but he also noted that lawmakers instead may adopt a one-year extension of the current highway and transit programs. Bush didn't say he supports a one-year bill, but he also didn't say he would oppose such a measure.
During an "Ask President Bush" meeting Sept. 7 at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Bush was asked what he could do with federal funds to improve highways. According to a White House transcript, Bush noted that talks have been going on about a new bill and said, ""I just want to make sure that the highway bill is a fair bill. We've put out a number we thought was fair and we're working with the Congress to meet that number. " Bush's administration has proposed a measure authorizing $256 billion over six years, but the Senate approved $318 billion and the House passed a $275-billion bill. Two offers of about $300 billion are on the table in the House-Senate conference that has been grappling with a compromise final version. The new bill would succeed the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
Bush continued, "And hopefully, we'll get it done. You know, there's a--either give the highway bill the six-year extension, or they may just decide to go with a one-year extension and work it out later on."
He also said he wants "to make sure that the highway bill honors the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is set up so that we use the money from the gasoline tax and not general revenues."
Bush added, "I will try to do my best to work with people in the other party to get things done. But I can't guarantee much will get done between now and the election because it's pretty partisan up there right now."
TEA-21 expired last Sept. 30 and the highway and transit programs have been operating under a series of short-term extensions since that date. The latest extension lapses Sept. 24 for the highway program and Sept. 30 for transit and safety programs.