By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
*Update: The Senate late Dec. 9 approved the bill 63 to 36. President Obama signed it.
House members Dec. 8 approved 326 to 96 legislation that would hold federal funding constant for most federal discretionary programs through April 28, 2017. With the current “continuing resolution” —which has kept the government operating since FY 2017 began Oct. 1—expiring at midnight Dec. 9, Senate action before that deadline is widely expected.
While the measure will avoid a government shutdown, it also delays roughly $1.5 billion in highway and public transportation investment increases called for in the 2015 “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act” surface transportation program reauthorization for at least seven months. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have produced funding measures for the U.S. Department of Transportation that would increase highway investment by $900 million to a record $43.3 billion in FY 2017—as called for in the FAST Act. The Senate measure would boost transit spending by $510 million to over $12 billion (also consistent with the FAST Act), while the House plan would provide $12.2 billion for the public transportation programs.
Congressional GOP leaders announced their intent to delay the final FY 2017 spending plans until well into 2017 shortly after the November elections, citing their preference to negotiate a final package with President Trump rather with President Obama in 2016.
The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Dec. 8 expressed its disappointment in the needless delay of transportation investments virtually all representatives and senators supported just over a year ago. In urging Congress to fully deliver the FAST Act investment levels as soon as possible, the TCC noted:
“Withholding the new law’s full investments would once again create uncertainty for states about the timely delivery of federal highway and public transportation commitments. Delaying these resources unnecessarily also complicates their utilization during the 2017 construction season which will be well underway by the end of next April.”