As federal highway and transit programs’ funding authority nears a July 31 expiration, Congress is laboring to find a fix. House Republicans proposed a five-month extension, and the Senate has moved a key part of a six-year bill through committee. Construction and state transportation officials don’t want to see funds cut off. But it is unclear whether the two chambers can strike a deal in time.
To keep funds flowing, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on July 13 rolled out an $8.1-billion stopgap provision that would run through Dec. 18. They also said they’re seeking to use those five months to help produce a longer-range transportation bill, lasting up to six years.
To finance their extension, Ryan and Shuster would shift $8.1 billion to the struggling Highway Trust Fund from the general treasury. Offsetting revenue-raisers include tax-compliance changes.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 24 cleared a $277-billion, six-year highway measure, and the commerce committee was slated to vote on July 15 on the highway-safety part of a possible later package. But the Finance Committee hasn’t yet weighed in with critical revenue provisions. The amount needed is about $90 billion.
Dept. of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on July 14 told state highway agencies that unless Congress bolsters the trust fund, DOT would have to slow reimbursements to them in August, making repayments every two weeks. DOT also would have to furlough workers and halt funds for new projects, Foxx warned.