Congress Approves Highway Trust Fund Fix01-Aug-2014
On Thursday, July 31, the House of Representatives voted 272-150 to reject Senate amendments to an original House bill, H.R. 5021, legislation to prevent the short-term insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and its Mass Transit Account. Late last night, the Senate proceeded to accept the House action and send the original House bill to the President for his signature.
The House passed H.R. 5021 on July 15, providing approximately $10.8 billion in offsets to support transfers of General Funds into the HTF and to extend the authorizations for transit, highway and highway safety programs funded from the HTF through the end of May 31, 2015.
On Tuesday, the Senate adopted two amendments to alter the offsets for the funding transfers and change the length of the authorization extension. An amendment from Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) was approved to alter some of the House bill’s budgetary offsets, chiefly by reducing the amount raised by the House’s pension smoothing provision and replacing it with a tax compliance component. The second amendment by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sought to end the extension in December, rather than May 2015, in order to force Congress to address the issue again this calendar year, in the hope that a longer-term revenue solution can be developed in the Congressional lame duck session following the November elections. For further detail on Tuesday’s Senate votes, click here for APTA’s earlier Legislative Alert.
The House acted on Thursday to reject the Senate amendments and insist on its original version of the bill, thereby placing pressure on the Senate to recede from its changes to the bill and send the House bill along to the President for his signature. Last night, the Senate did just that, with the August recess period looming and the U.S. Department of Transportation indicating that, as of August 1, they would begin slowing down payments to state governments for highway construction work. The Senate voted to recede from its amendment by a vote of 81 yeas to 13 nays.
With Thursday’s action by Congress, the bill sent to the President for his signature transfers $10.8 billion into the Highway Trust Fund, allowing the Trust Fund to stay solvent through May 2015, and extends MAP-21 funding authorization and policies for highway, mass transit, and safety programs through May 31, 2015.
Statements made by transportation organizations across surface transportation modes and industries largely called on Congress to continue to seek a long-term solution to the funding challenges regardless of the length of the extension.