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Senate votes to extend highway funding

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(Bloomberg News photo)

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2014) — The U.S. Senate voted July 29 to extend federal transportation program authorizations, adopting a shorter-term patch for the Highway Trust Fund in order to allow time for Congress to focuse on crafting a longer-term, well-funded highway bill.

The action brought praise from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which earlier had urged the Senate publicly to take action.

The Senate voted 66-31 to approve the Carper-Corker-Boxer Amendment to the Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 5021) and subsequently passed the modified package, sending it back House of Representatives for approval.

The ATA urged the House of Representatives to follow suit. Without Congressional action, the Highway Trust Fund is expected to be depleted by sometime in August.

“(The) ATA believes the quickly passing of a long-term, well-funded highway bill is in our national interest, and we believe that a short-term patch to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent is the best way to achieve that,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.

“To that end, by adopting the amendment by Sens. (Barbara) Boxer, (Bob) Corker and (Tom) Carper to shorten that patch, the Senate has put Congress on a path to solving these issues this year.”

Mr. Graves added: “We urge the House to follow suit and to pass the Senate’s Highway Trust Fund fix and then get on to the work of passing a long-term highway bill when Congress returns from recess.

“Continuing to manage our nation’s infrastructure by crisis is no way to provide America’s motorists and truckers with the world-class infrastructure they need. A December deadline averts near-term Highway Trust Fund default and provides ample time for lawmakers to resolve the long-term challenge facing the Trust Fund.”

The House approved a bill July 15 by a 367-55 vote that would keep U.S. transportation projects funded through May 2015 by transferring $9.9 billion from the general fund and $1 billion from a separate trust fund into the Highway Trust Fund.

According to a statement on Sen. Corker’s Senate website, the Carper-Corker-Boxer amendment to H.R. 5021 would:

  • Extend federal transportation program authorizations through December 19, 2014, to ensure that Congress remains focused on the critical and urgent task of passing a fully-funded long-term solution to the Highway Trust Fund crisis before the end of the year;
  • Provide sufficient funding to the Department of Transportation to reimburse states for highway and transit projects through December 2014;
  • Strike the pension smoothing provisions that generate revenue in the 10-year window that would likely cost taxpayers money in the long run, and;
  • Include revenue provisions from the Preserving America’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act reported out of the Senate Finance Committee that contain bipartisan tax compliance measures, while omitting the pension smoothing gimmick.

Sen. Carper, D-Del., is chairman of the Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure and member of the Finance Committee; Sen. Boxer, D-Calif., is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee; and Sen. Corker is a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee and an active member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

“Congress must act this year to pass and fund a long-term transportation bill,” Sen. Carper said. “Our states, cities and businesses are asking for more certainty so that they can plan the type of transformative projects that will restore our aging infrastructure and strengthen our economy.

“I remain deeply concerned that if we kick this can into next year that the next Congress — like so many Congresses before it — will be unable to summon the courage necessary to write a long-term plan for our nation’s infrastructure.

“It’s this Congress’ responsibility to come up with a long-term solution. Not the next one. Our amendment would ensure that this Congress gets its job done this year.”

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