Republicans Pave Way for Transportation Funding
On May 31, authorization for funding the Highway Trust Fund expires.
Beginning in October 2009, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed 12 short-term highway bill extensions.
Senate Republicans are working to find a long-term solution for funding our nation’s highways and transportation programs.
“I am committed to finding a long-term solution on highways. I plan to keep working with my colleagues … on finding a way to get us there.”
– Sen. Orrin Hatch, 5/18/2015
Under President Obama, the Democrat-controlled Senate never managed to pass a long-term transportation funding bill. Starting in October 2009, Democrats passed 12 short-term extensions for highway funding, averaging about six months per extension (including MAP-21). The most recent extension, in July 2014, was for 10 months.
Although Senate Democrats were unable to do better than a series of stopgaps during the past six years, they have been quick to criticize Senate Republican efforts to find a long-term solution. The same Senate Democrats have yet to offer a credible plan for a long-term transportation bill.
Chairman Hatch of the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman Inhofe of the Environment and Public Works Committee have made meaningful progress toward finding a practical, long-term funding solution that can provide certainty to the transportation sector. While work remains on how much money to put into the fund and how to raise that money, Senate Republicans are working to find a path forward.
The Path Forward on Highways
Congress will need to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund by May 31 to continue paying for infrastructure projects around the country. Filling the funding gap in the trust fund through the end of this calendar year is estimated to cost approximately $11 billion.
According to an article in The Hill on April 2, the federal government spends approximately “$50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in $34 billion.” Congress must find a bipartisan solution to build approved projects and ensure the funding for our nation’s infrastructure programs.
Last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Ryan and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Shuster introduced a two-month extension, expiring on July 31, to fund programs out of the Highway Trust Fund. On the Senate side, Majority Leader McConnell has started the process to advance a highway bill extension. Longer term, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works announced the panel will hold a markup next month to consider legislation that reauthorizes highway programs for six years.
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