As lawmakers returned from the August congressional recess, optimism for quick House action on a multiyear highway bill pulsed throughout the Capitol. However, a House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I) mark up scheduled for Sept. 10 was delayed indefinitely and with a busy fall agenda, talk of another short-term extension permeated the discussion.
Despite Senate passage of the DRIVE Act (a six year highway bill with three years of funding), before the August break, the strong momentum for a long-term agreement to invest in our nation’s crumbling surface transportation infrastructure slowed. Make no mistake about it; a solution is allusive for the same old reason: funding. With lawmakers unwilling to raise the user fee (AED’s preferred policy in the near term) because of the perceived political risk, the American people and the construction sector are left to deal with the uncertainty.
Nonetheless, because of the Senate’s action, a path forward is possible. House T&I Committee leadership remains committed to completing a six-year highway bill before November. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) indicated he’s working toward funding the bill (likely through international tax reform). If the revenue doesn’t come together, the House can always approve a policy bill (without funding) and go to conference with Senate, where pay-fors would be negotiated.
Unfortunately, the delay is going to necessitate another short-term extension (the highway program’s authorization expires after Oct. 29) and the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement that the Highway Trust Fund will remain solvent well into 2016 takes away some urgency for quick congressional action.
AED and its allies are committed to keeping the pressure on for an immediate, long-term, and robust funding solution to invest in surface transportation infrastructure projects. Weigh-in with your lawmakers through AEDaction.org.
source: Associated Equipment Distributors