House Clears Another Short Term Extension of Surface Transportation Programs, Paves the Way for Possible Conference with Senate

Posted on: April 19th, 2012 by NADO Admin

On April 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another 90-day extension of surface transportation programs (H.R. 4348) which House leaders plan to use as a vehicle to begin a conference committee with the U.S. Senate, which has already approved a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill (S. 1813, MAP-21).

The House measure extends federal-aid highway, safety, transit, and other programs funded by the Highway Trust Fund at FY2011 levels in lieu of a new, multiyear reauthorization. The current surface transportation extension (P.L. 112-102), enacted on March 30, expires at the end of June.

Although President Obama threatened to veto the measure over the inclusion of a Keystone XL pipeline provision, the House extension passed with a provision that would expedite the pipeline project by transferring authority to approve it from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and place a 30-day time limit on the approval process.

The House Republican leadership removed earlier provisions from their reauthorization proposal which would have used expanded domestic energy production revenues to pay for transportation projects. They also dropped a contentious provision to remove transit, research and congestion mitigation and air quality (CMAQ) programs from the Highway Trust Fund.

Now that the House has passed this new measure, the Senate could decide to directly begin a House-Senate conference to work on a compromise between the House extension and the Senate’s “MAP-21” reauthorization bill. The goal is to now successfully negotiate a final surface transportation measure before the current authorization expires.

Even if the House and Senate begin to conference immediately, substantial hurdles remain—including reaching consensus on how to fund a final measure that could pass in both chambers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, under current spending levels, the Highway Trust Fund will need approximately $9 billion in extra deposits to remain solvent through the end of FY2013. This would necessitate either new tax receipts to be deposited into the Trust Fund or else it would require the transfer of money from other parts of the federal budget (which would increase the federal deficit unless offset by other cuts or tax increases).

To learn more about NADO priorities in a transportation reauthorization measure, click here.

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