Posted on June 28, 2012 10:17 AM
Conferees Reach Agreement on Transportation Reauthorization Bill
Late on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, top congressional negotiators announced they had reached an agreement to reauthorize and finance federal transportation programs through September 2014. The conference report was filed early in the morning on Thursday, June 28, 2012; the full text and a summary document are available on-line. According to an article from the Hill, the transportation bill will likely be combined with student loan and flood insurance bills, and the broader legislative package could be voted on by the end of the week. The final package will be funded in part by $27.185 billion in offsets, including provisions to stabilize pension interest rates and increasing premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The last federal reauthorization bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), originally expired on September 30, 2009, and has been extended nine times. The current extension would have expired June 30, 2012.
According to press releases from U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate negotiators, the compromise focuses on consolidating federal transportation programs and streamlining project delivery. It also provides for half of federal bicycle and pedestrian funds to be allocated directly to local governments; the remaining half of those funds will be allocated to states and made eligible for a wider array of projects. The final compromise does not include controversial environmental provisions such as the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or restrictions on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal ash.
The conference committee first met on May 8, 2012, to reconcile competing reauthorization bills passed by the House and Senate. The Senate passed Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a $109 billion, 1.5-year reauthorization bill, in March 2012. The House passed H.R. 4348, a three-month extension of current federal transportation programs, in April 2012. The House bill also included various environmental streamlining provisions.
The House-Senate conference committee exchanged various proposals and counterproposals throughout May and June. Conferees were unable to reach agreement on several controversial topics, including environmental streamlining provisions and the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, but high-level meetings between Senate and House leadership over the past week helped to broker the compromise.
Stay tuned to CMAP’s Policy Updates blog for more information on the compromise, including its next steps through the legislative process and a more detailed analysis of its reforms to federal transportation policy.