September 2008 – AggBeat
by Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
Senate committee signs off on transportation funding
On July 10, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee gave its approval to the FY ’09 Department of Transportation spending bill. Included in that bill is the Baucus-Grassley-Murray plan to restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by transferring funds from the General Fund.
According to a press release from the American Concrete Pavement Association, the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee responded to recommendations by Senate Finance Committee leaders Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ranking Member Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.) by approving the spending bill with the trust fund fix attached and sent it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.
The legislation includes full funding of federal aid highway programs at $41.2 billion, the amount authorized for fiscal year 2009 under the current legislation. With lower-than-anticipated federal excise tax receipts, revenue aligned budget authority (RABA) provisions could result in a reduction to $40.2 billion.
The bill will transfer nearly $8.02 billion from the General Fund to the HTF, the same amount that was transferred from the HTF to the General Fund in 1998. This would offset any shortfall of funds, enabling full funding of critical highway programs and helping to ensure that the deficit crisis is resolved. Filling the funding gap would ensure uninterrupted highway projects, boost the U.S. economy, and keep states from losing as much as 34 percent of badly needed highway funding and more than 380,000 related jobs.
The measure also rescinds $3.15 billion in unobligated balances of highway program contract authority previously apportioned to states and provides $3.51 billion for the Airport Improvement Program.
According to a report in National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s eDigest & Washington Watch e-newsletter, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, “This legislation is all about making smart investments that will pay real dividends for the American people in both the short and long term.” He went on to commend Murray for “crafting a bill that reflects the needs of all Americans.”
At Aggregates Manager press time, the bill was waiting for full Senate approval. However, some Congressional leaders say that final action on the FY ’09 spending bills is unlikely to occur before the end of the fiscal year and that a continuing resolution would be needed to fund the government through next year, allowing a new president to put his seal of approval on the new bills.
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