Federal highway and transit programs will have their authorizations extended through Dec. 18, thanks to a stopgap spending package that Congress has approved. Final congressional action came on Oct. 29 when the Senate cleared the package by a 72-28 vote. That followed House passage earlier in the day, by a 247-178 tally.
The measure also provides full fiscal year 2010 appropriations for Interior Dept. and Environmental Protection Agency programs and extends funding through Dec. 18 for many other accounts for which Congress has yet to pass 2010 spending bills.
The new continuing resolution was necessary because Congress has passed only five of the 12 appropriations measures for fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1. Those five are: agriculture, energy and water, homeland security, legislative branch, and now Interior-environment.
An earlier continuing resolution has kept funds flowing to those other agencies since Oct. 1, but that stopgap expires Oct. 31. The new 48-day CR will fund those programs generally at their fiscal 2009 levels. Programs still operating under the stopgap include many such key construction accounts as highways, transit, airports, prisons, military projects, embassies and General Services Administration federal buildings.
Another important provision for construction is a further short extension for the current surface transportation authorization statute, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). That 2005 law lapsed on Sept. 30. Congress had extended it through Oct. 31.
House and Senate have been unable to agree on a multi-year successor to SAFETEA-LU, in part because lawmakers have been struggling to find revenue sources to pay for the funding increases they desire.
The Interior-environment appropriations portion of the newly approved spending package does provide a huge increase for EPA water infrastructure programs. Under the bill, the agency's overall state and tribal water assistance grants account receives $4.97 billion for 2010, up 67% from the 2009 level.
Within that $4.97-billion total, EPA aid for clean water state revolving funds will get $2.1 billion, more than triple the 2009 mark of $689 million, and drinking water SRFs receive $1.39 billion, up 67% from 2009.