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July 10, 2014

U.S. House Committee Marks Up Transportation Bill Extension

July 11, 2014 UPDATE: The afternoon of July 10, 2014, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee marked up a modified version of its transportation reauthorization extension bill, the Preserving America's Transit and Highways Act.  One of the key changes in the modified version is an increased length of the extension, from three months to eight months.

On July 10, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee marked up H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014. The bill would extend the federal transportation program through May 31, 2015.  This follows a short-term transportation reauthorization extension bill released in late June by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.  The current authorization for the nation's highway, transit, safety, and rail programs is the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, currently scheduled to expire on September 30, 2014.

The Highway and Transportation Funding Act would provide $10.9 billion in transfers to the Highway Trust Fund, covering the shortfall between revenues and MAP-21 spending levels anticipated to begin later this summer, as well as paying for an eight-month extension of MAP-21 programs.  The bill relies on a $1.0 billion transfer of revenues from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, along with $9.9 billion in new revenues to be raised over a ten-year period from pension funding stabilization and customs user fees.  The Ways and Means Committee website features a more detailed explanation of the bill's funding sources.

Both the Senate and House proposals draw on revenue sources unrelated to use of the transportation system for the bulk of their funding, and both rely on ten years' worth of revenue to pay for short-term extensions of the federal transportation program.  The major difference between the two is the length of the extension -- eight months in the House bill and three months in the Senate bill.  The U.S. Department of Transportation has warned that on August 1, 2014, it will begin cash management procedures that delay its reimbursement payments to the states in response to the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. 

While acknowledging the immediate crisis, CMAP urges Congress to work toward a long-term reauthorization bill that relies on robust, sustainable investment in the system with transportation user fees.  While GO TO 2040 supports increasing the federal gas tax and indexing it to inflation, it also recognizes the need to pursue a long-term replacement for the gas tax.  CMAP's revised reauthorization principles provide more detail on the agency's policy positions.