Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed a way to shore up the teetering Highway Trust Fund, but just through Dec. 31. His solution is a group of revenue raisers, including a higher tax on heavy trucks, to pull in $9 billion over 10 years.

But Finance's top Republican, Orrin Hatch (Utah), finds fault with Wyden's plan, which the committee was slated to take up on June 26. Hatch said Wyden's proposal isn't bipartisan, despite weeks of negotiations. Hatch said he would work with Wyden and others "to create a balanced bill that can pass both chambers and be signed by the president." Sean O'Neill, an Associated General Contractors of America congressional relations director, calls Wyden's plan "a good step forward." O'Neill says AGC hopes the bill that emerges from the committee "gains support of folks on both sides of the aisle."

The Dept. of Transportation projects that without new revenue, the trust fund's highway account will slip into the red by late August.

Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president, says industry officials generally favor lengthy highway-transit bills. "But in this case," she says, "I think the industry prefers a shorter-term fix because they want to keep the pressure on Congress to do something more permanent, particularly in the lame-duck session of Congress." Connor says that could be a chance to pass a gas-tax increase (see p. 96).