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Congress Progressing with Stopgap Transportation Funding Bill

Patch bills advanced in the Senate and the House on Thursday that would keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through May 2015—good news for state DOTs that will see reduced federal reimbursements on August 1 unless a funding bill is passed soon.
July 12, 2014, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means panels approved Highway Trust Fund patch bills yesterday, and the House bill is set for a floor vote next week," writes Adam Snider for Politico Morning Transportation.

That’s good news for states worried about DOT’s move to pro-rate reimbursements checks three weeks from today unless lawmakers act.

"We’ve reached an agreement that can work for both Republicans and Democrats which, given the state of the Senate these days, is quite an accomplishment,” said Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee," write Bloomberg's Laura Litvan and Richard Rubin.

The biggest change was that the Senate bill's time frame lengthened to conform to the House bill, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (or H.R. 5021) covering payments through May. Litvan and Rubin go on to describe Democrat amendments made and rejected in both committees. 

"It’s the kind of legislation that could only have a chance of passage under the circumstances in which lawmakers now find themselves: The waning days before the August recess, when the coffers of the Highway Trust Fund will drop to the lowest sustainable level," write Emma Dumain and David Harrison of Roll Call prior to the Thursday votes. They correctly predicted that the House bill would prevail over the Senate version.

According to an AASHTO Journal article, "(Ways and Committee) Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) said that the measure would get that funding through "pension smoothing and customs user fees," which Camp said are policies he believes the Senate would support, and a transfer of gas-tax-funded monies in the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, which Camp again said should have support as this was used in the passage of MAP-21."

While it's good to see Congress appear to come together in the nick of time for an essential purpose, Forbes contributor Len Burman, a Professor of Public Affairs at Syracuse University, explains that the main funding mechanism of the House bill, pension smoothing, is nothing more than a "cynical budget gimmick (that) raises exactly zero revenue over the long run."

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Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 in Politico Morning Transportation
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