The committee met Thursday to agree on the text of the bill,called the Preserving America’s Transit and Highways Act.
“With the Highway Trust Fund getting closer to running on fumes,Congress must get beyond the gridlock where each faction says,‘It’s my way,or no highway,’” Sen. Ron Wyden,D-Ore.,the committee chair,said.
Congress has less than a month to come up with a way to fund the nation’s roads and bridges through the end of the year. If action isn’t taken,the trust fund will run out of money by mid-September and could result in 700,000 lost jobs.
States that depend on federal funds to build and repair roads and bridges have reacted to the problem by raising gas taxes or by slowing projects.
“Today’s proposal is a balanced and viable bill that addresses the immediate needs of the highway trust fund,” Sen. Orrin Hatch,R-Utah,said. “Moving forward,I am committed to addressing the chronic underfunding of the Highway Trust Fund for the long term.”
Wyden’s alterations to the bill include transferring nearly $8 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund and an additional $1 billion from a fund for repairing leaking storage tanks. It also closes some loopholes in education and Medicare programs and changing some tax credits,which would result in $10.8 billion in additional money for the trust fund over a decade.
Several senators on the committee withdrew amendments at the hearing,hoping that a slimmer version of the bill would gain more votes.
“We’ve kicked the can down the road 11 times,” Sen. Tom Carper,D-Del.,said. He said that this short-term solution won’t help states,because without the certainty of funding,governors may not approve projects that could take years.
In the House,the Ways and Means Committee moved its version of the bill out of committee earlier Thursday. Speaker John Boehner,R-Ohio,said he plans to hold a floor vote on the bill next week.
Both bills are now more closely aligned.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp,R-Mich.,is modeled on previous stopgap funding measures,and has roughly the same types of savings as the Senate bill.
“I urge my Senate colleagues to quickly take up this bill after it passes the House next week and avoid any brinksmanship,” Camp said. “The House and Senate can easily pass this legislation.”
Reach reporter Daniel Wheaton at [email protected] or 202-236-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.