With money tight, top House and Senate appropriators aim to produce a bill combining unfinished 2007 spending measures by Feb. 15, when a stopgap expires.  Many programs will get less than their defenders desire.

Highway program backers fear a $3.4-billion cut from the $39.1 billion SAFETEA-LU authorized for 2007. A Jan. 17 House transportation panel letter argues SAFETEA-LU programs are uniquely user-fee- based; funding them at authorized levels won’t hurt other areas. The Senate Appropriations Committee recognizes “the promises that were made” in SAFETEA-LU, says spokesman Tom Gavin. “How those funding decisions will come out...remains to be seen,” he adds. But he says that Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) “has always believed in the importance of infrastructure development.”