$17.6 billion ‘jobs bill’ passes Senate, transfers $19.5 billion into Highway Trust Fund
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
The Highway Trust Fund will be solvent through the end of the year, but now the real fight begins to pass legislation for a multi-year transportation bill.
The Senate voted 68-34 on March 17 to pass H.R. 2847, the $17.6 billion “jobs bill” known as the HIRE Act, which extends the current surface transportation law until Dec. 31 and transfers $19.5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to ensure the fund’s solvency during the extension and restoring the rescission that occurred at the end of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act — A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
The final vote occurred after a 63-34 vote supporting a motion to waive a budget point of order raised by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), according to a special Washington Watch report from the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA). At press time, the bill was just awaiting a signature from President Barack Obama.
The bill grew from $15 billion in the House to $17.6 billion after an expansion of the Build America Bonds financing.
Eleven Republicans (Lamar Alexander, Tenn.; Kit Bond, Mo.; Scott Brown, Mass; Richard Burr, N.C.; Thad Cochran, Miss.; Susan Collins, Maine; Jim Inhofe, Okla.; George LeMieux, Fla.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Olympia Snowe, Maine; and George Voinovich, Ohio) voted to pass the bill, while Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska opposed it, according to the NSSGA report.
This solves the problem in the short-term, but now Congress must work on a six-year surface transportation reauthorization. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has called for a six-year, half-billion-dollar bill. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said March 15 that a six-year bill is on the White House’s radar, NSSGA notes.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee continued its series of transportation hearings on March 18, when members heard from witnesses on rural and urban mobility, NSSGA says.