The Senate December 13 approved 56-40 legislation to fund the majority of the federal government for the remainder of FY 2015. The House approved the measure December 11. The Senate debate on the $1.1 trillion government-wide spending measure mirrored House deliberations on the bill. Democrats opposed inclusion of provisions to loosen banking regulations and Republicans objected to the bill not confronting President Obama’s executive action on immigration. On the final vote, 21 Democrats and 1 Independent (who routinely sides with Democrats) and 18 Republicans opposed the bill. President Obama signed the measure December 16.
The dust up in the bill’s final days, however, should not overshadow the certainty the measure will provide to most federal government programs and activities over the next nine months. While the bill largely retains prior year investment levels for most transportation programs—the transit capital investment grants stand out receiving a $177 million boost—the core highway and public transportation programs are facing the sixth Highway Trust Fund revenue crisis in eight years. The trust fund will be unable to support current investment levels—including those set by the FY 2015 wrap-up spending measure—beyond May 31, 2015. Leaders of the House and Senate continue to reference the Highway Trust Fund and reauthorization of the surface transportation program as an early 2015 priority.
Before adjourning for the year on December 16, the Senate approved House-passed legislation that extends a series of tax provisions for the 2014 tax year. Included in this package was a reinstatement of the 50 percent bonus depreciation and increases the limit on Section 179 expensing to $500,000—both of these provisions are intended to incentivize the purchase or financing of equipment. ARTBA joined with 15 other construction industry organizations in a December 3 letter to the House and Senate in support of these two economy-boosting tax provisions. President Obama is expected to sign the tax measure.