March 3, 2009
This $8 billion in revenue is needed to ensure that there will not be a 34 percent or higher reduction in highway funds to states below SAFETEA-LU’s authorized funding levels in FY 2009. The HTF provision was dropped from the bill following strong opposition from Rep. Jerry Lewis (CA) the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee.
They announced their opposition to the HTF fix in a joint press release this morning, which quoted Rep. Lewis as saying, “This bill just exacerbates our transportation funding problem by using an $8 billion taxpayer-funded band-aid on the terminally ill Highway Trust Fund. We need real reform and practical solutions, not more buck passing.”
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted last night to bring up a similar aviation extension which includes the same $8 billion HTF fix championed by Senators Baucus (D-MT), Grassley (R-IA) and Murray (D-Wash), asking for unanimous consent. Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) then objected to Reid’s unanimous consent request, saying that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) had a placed “hold” on the bill, due to the $8 billion HTF fix.
Senate Budget Committee Ranking Republican Judd Gregg (NH) has also been vocally opposed to allowing the HTF fix from moving forward. Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) issued a statement saying that “Highway Trust Fund deficits threaten to derail our infrastructure projects and put our citizens at risk, yet the Senate was stopped today from passing crucial legislation for America’s public safety and for folks who desperately need the jobs that highway funds create…Unfounded objections are keeping the Senate from providing a timely, responsible and critical response to the need for highway jobs and safer America’s roadways.”
FAA authority expires on June 30 making the extension a priority before Congress leaves town on Friday for the July 4th recess. Sen. DeMint’s opposition, however, will make it difficult to include the $8 billion in the aviation extension bill this week. Carolina’s AGC and its members have been contacting Sen. DeMint all week to explain the impact of this action on South Carolina’s highway program. AGC of New Hampshire has been in contact with Senator Gregg.
(Source: Associated General Contractors of America)