By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

Reports of competing scenarios for Senate action on some variation of a surface transportation bill swirled around Capitol Hill this past week.  As this edition goes to press and with the clock ticking toward the July 31 deadline, it is clear Senate leadership and relevant committees are girding for action as early as the week ahead.  It is unclear, however, what they will attempt to advance.

Several senators, notably Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), continue to reference a five-month extension through the end of the calendar year as the likely outcome.  A measure of this duration would require Congress to generate $8 billion in new Highway Trust Fund revenue to preserve existing levels of highway and public transportation investment.  A number of supporters of this approach believe it would provide a window for Congress to reform current international tax laws to improve the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses and generate a one-time pot of money that could support a six-year highway/transit program reauthorization bill.

Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee members are continuing to advocate their six-year reauthorization proposal, which was approved unanimously June 24, for action instead of another extension.  The EPW plan would require more than $90 billion in new trust fund resources.  Read ARTBA’s analysis of the proposal.

Lastly, some lawmakers are suggesting a two-year extension that would move the reauthorization debate beyond the 2016 presidential election as the potential sweet spot because it would shelve this difficult issue for the immediate future. Roughly $30 billion in new revenue would be needed.

While this situation is obviously very fluid, ARTBA continues to urge all members of Congress to pass this year a six-year reauthorization bill that increases highway and public transportation investment.

ARTBA expects Senate action to move fast once they have decided on a course of action and there is no guarantee whatever plan they start with will be the final product.  ARTBA members should stand ready to weigh in with their senators once the situation crystallizes.  We will provide you with updates as developments occur and key messages to deliver to your senators.