Will They Meet the Deadline
Posted by Shayne Trimbell June 7, 2012The Mayans predict that on December 21, 2012 the world will come to an end. For those in the transportation world, that date will be far too late if Congress doesn’t act by June 30, 2012; that is the day the current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires. Allowing the transportation bill to expire is not something that anyone wants to see, members of Congress included in the bunch.
SAFETEA-LU, the multi-year transportation spending authorization that was signed by President Bush in 2005 expired in September 2009. Since 2009, SAFETEA-LU has had nine short-term extensions. The most recent extension was passed on March 29 and was for 90 days. Congress has not been passing extensions in the absence of proposals for new legislation, in-fact it is because of disagreement on those proposals that extensions are passed.
Both the Senate and the House have passed transportation spending bills. The two bills couldn’t be further apart on the priorities for spending and the length of authorization. Since the beginning of May, representatives from the House and Senate have been deadlocked in conference committee trying to compromise on the transportation bill. At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, the role of the government in funding transportation, and the length of time that a bill will provide funding . The House transportation bill includes the Keystone XL, and uses revenue generated from it to fund highways. The House bill places a priority on our nation’s highway network and ends programs that are not highway related. The Senate bill places a higher priority on a multi-modal transportation network, reshaping many of the programs that fund transit and non-motorized transportation. The House bill would continue funding for transportation for five years, while the Senate bill only last two years.
There has been little information coming out of Washington on the proceedings of the conference committee, and with the deadline to pass a bill looming, many are starting to wonder what will happen on June 30th. Deals are being stuck, and Politico has reported that Senate leaders Barbara Boxer and James Imhofe have sent a deal to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica. The details of the deal remain top-secret, however Representative Bill Shuster, member of the committee and slated chairman, said that a counter offer is in the works. Senator Boxer appears pleased with the reception of the offer and stated “we’re very happy.”
Although discussions on a final transportation bill have been kept under wraps, it is looking like we may see a long term bill passed before the June 30 deadline. Of course, with little information being released, and the two sides only starting to discuss a bargain, the likelihood of another short-term extension can not be removed from the equation.