House/Senate Committees Move to Shore Up Highway Funding

July 11, 2014
AGC of America Highway Facts Bulletin
Brian Deery

Both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee moved legislation this week to provide sufficient revenue to the Highway Trust Fund in order to keep highway and transit programs operational until May 31, 2015. The House bill included language extending MAP-21 authorization, at current levels, to May 31, while the Senate bill did not. However, the Senate provided sufficient revenue to carry the program until June 1 and is expected to add extension language at some point.

Both bills provide $10.8 billion in revenue, which would come from general fund transfers. To allow for the transfer, both bills provide budgetary offsets which are generally the same, but with a few small differences. The bills rely primarily on extending customs fees on importers, taking money from the leaking underground storage tank fund (LUST) and changing rules on private pension contributions to pay for the extension. The Senate bill relies somewhat less on these provisions, but also provides additional revenue from other minor tax law changes.
Much of the debate surrounding these bills centered on the length of the extension. Many believe the best opportunity to address a long-term transportation authorization bill with a revenue increase is during a “lame duck” session of Congress following the November 2014 midterm elections. However, others feel that the lame duck will be short and unproductive. Before approving the House bill, the Ways and Means Committee rejected – by a vote of 23-16 - an amendment offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would have limited the extension for the trust fund through the end of the year to give lawmakers time to approve a long-term surface transportation funding plan.
In the Senate committee, a similar amendment was offered by Senator Thomas Carper (D-Del.) to reduce the amount of revenue provided to approximately $8 billion, which would have only carried the program through the end of 2014. That amendment was rejected by a 10-14 vote. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also released a statement urging that the extension be limited to the end of the year with a long-term reauthorization in mind.
Both the House and Senate are expected to take up these bills next week and the hope is to work out differences between now and end of July. 

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