Senators Float Midsummer Highway Bill Patch
With one week left to pass a short-term funding extension of the highway bill before Congress takes its Memorial Day recess, which will run past May 31st when the current legislation expires, two key Democratic lawmakers have introduced a measure to extend the authorization of surface transportation programs into this July.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the two top Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced their patch on Thursday, noting that “the Highway Trust Fund is expected to have sufficient funds to reimburse states for project costs through sometime in July 2015.”
Their bill also calls on the House and Senate to complete work on a long-term authorization of surface transportation programs and send such legislation “as soon as possible” to the President for his signature.
However the Carper-Boxer bill may well be headed nowhere, given that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Environment and Public Works Chairman, has he would support a patch lasting until December that several other House and Senate Republicans favor, per a Politico.com post.
“In the 10 months since the last short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, we’ve come no closer to a solution for providing the long-term funding that is desperately needed to support a multi-year transportation bill,” Sen. Carper said in a statement. “It’s clear to me that yet another long extension that patches the trust fund with an assortment of budget gimmicks only guarantees that we’ll push this issue right to the back burner, as we’ve done over and over again.
“Aligning the expiration of transportation programs with the funding available in the Highway Trust Fund rightly keeps Congress’s focus on finding a responsible long-term solution this summer for this critical program,” he continued. “Time and again – six times over the past 10 years – Congress has kicked the can down the road and done a short-term patch, rather than made the hard but necessary choices to responsibly fund the Highway Trust Fund. This has left states and cities without the funding certainty that is required to plan and build any large transportation project.
Carper added that he “fears kicking the can closer to another election” with a longer-term extension would be “a recipe for letting down” states and cities yet again.
As for putting together a multi-year funding bill, Sens. Inhofe and Boxer announced on Wednesday that the Environment and Public Works Committee is planning for a mark-up in June of a “bipartisan six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill.”
“While Congress continues to debate the funding mechanisms, we believe it is in the best interest that this committee moves forward with consideration of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill,” Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer said in a statement. We can no longer wait on Congress.”