By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced late July 13 a plan to extend the authorization of highway and transit programs and preserve existing levels of surface transportation investment through December 31.
The “Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II” (H.R. 3038) would infuse the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) with $8 billion in new revenues: $5 billion from tax compliance measures to ensure individuals and businesses pay their full tax obligation; and $3 billion from extending an airline security fee for two additional years. It is notable that House Republicans have endorsed using revenue from an aviation user fee to pay for highway, bridge and transit improvements, but have resisted raising highway user fees for that same purpose and increasing the passenger facility charge to pay for airport capital needs.
Ryan and Shuster described the situation and their goals in a joint statement:
“This country needs a long-term plan to fix our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, and this bill gives us our best shot at completing one this year. By providing resources through the end of the year, we can ensure construction continues while we work toward a package that could close the trust fund’s shortfall for as many as six years. We urge all members who want some long-sought stability in our highway and transit programs to support this critical extension.”
The House is working to take up the legislation as soon as July 15.
Senate GOP leaders and the leaders of the relevant Senate transportation and tax committees are pushing back on the House plans and are trying to advance a multi-year reauthorization of the highway and public transportation programs before July 31 to prevent the need for another extension. The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee approved unanimously a six-year reauthorization of the federal highway program June 24 that would grow highway investment from the $40.3 billion current level to $48.3 billion by FY 2021. The measure also includes a number of ARTBA-supported policy reforms. (See ARTBA analysis.) The other Senate transportation committees have yet to produce reauthorization plans for the transit and safety programs.
The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition commended the Senate efforts in a July 13 letter stating its clear preference for a six-year bill at the EPW investment levels over another temporary extension. The success of the Senate push, however, will hinge on finding bipartisan support for a plan to generate the $100-plus billion in additional HTF revenues needed to support the highway and transit investments that would be made by an EPW-inspired reauthorization bill.
The situation is very fluid and we will continue to keep you apprised of developments as they occur.