As House leaders continue to discuss how to proceed on their version of a transportation reauthorization bill, there are reports that a two-year measure is being considered but also a hint that a six-year bill still may emerge in that chamber. At a House hearing March 3 on the Dept. of Transportation's budget, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta dodged a question about a two-year bill.

MINETA says position on two-year bill is "above my pay grade"
(U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

At a transportation appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) asked Mineta whether he could "live with" a two-year bill if efforts to produce a six-year measure failed. Mineta replied, "It's above my pay grade to give you an answer right now. I'd have to consult with the higher authorities."

The administration has proposed a $256-billion, six-year bill and Mineta told Rogers and the other appropriators, "I think that where we're at right now is still with the six-year bill and still following the principles that were laid out by the President." Those principles include no gas-tax increase or indexing taxes for inflation, no use of long-term bonds and no spending on highways from the general fund to increase the deficit.

Mineta added that one of Bush's principles was the idea of a six-year bill. "And that really is because as a [former] governor, he recognizes how important planning is from a state and local perspective. If you have a one- or a two-year bill, it's very difficult to do planning...."


Meetings have been taking place among House leaders. "At this point, it looks like we're going six-year," one staffer says. "It looks like we're closing in on a six-year deal." The staffer noted, but couldn't confirm, reports that a funding level of $280 billion is being discussed.

A group of industry organizations has weighed in with support for the six-year bill that the $318-billion transportation measure the Senate passed on Feb.12. In a March 3 letter to Bush, the Associated General Contractors, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the laborers' and operating engineers' unions, said that they "cannot support any legislation below the Senate investment level for a six-year bill."