Subcommittee Chairman Shelby notes 'historically high' highway funding

A Senate appropriations subcommittee has approved a fiscal 2005 spending bill that would boost the federal highway obligation ceiling by almost $1.3 billion, or 4%, to a record $34.9 billion. Transportation-on and treasury subcommittee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) noted that the level represents a "historically high" figure. The panel cleared the legislation on Sept. 9 without objection.

If the total is approved by the full Appropriations Committee and by the Senate, it would have to be reconciled with the amount the House recommended, $34.6 billion. It thus is virtually certain that highway design and construction firms will see increased funding for fiscal 2005. The 2004 obligation limit is $33.6 billion.

The subcommittee also approved $7.75 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, a hike of $500 million over the 2004 level, and a $3.5-billion obligation ceiling for the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program construction grants, up $120 million from 2004.

In addition, the bill recommends $710.8 million for the General Services Administration's construction account, up slightly from 2004's $708.3 million. The House's 2005 bill includes $522.2 million for the GSA construction program.

The subcommittee adopted an amendment offered by Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) that would cancel the Office of Management and Budget's 2003 regulation governing its "competitive sourcing" program. Under that program, thousands of federal jobs can be put up for competition with the private sector.

A Senate aide said there was no word on when the full Appropriations Committee might take up the bill.

(Photo courtesy of Office of Sen. Richard Shelby)