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Congress Passes Six-Month Highway Bill Extension

At 6:20pm, the Senate passed H.R. 2887 by a vote of 92 to 6, which extends the authorization of existing surface transportation programs for six months at FY2011 levels.  The bill now proceeds to the President for signature.

H.R. 2887 is the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU.  House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid reached an agreement on the contents of the bill over the weekend.  The agreement kept the bill “clean” – meaning that no changes in policy are included – and at current post-rescission funding levels ($39.0 billion for highways annualized).  Contract authority totaling $19.9 billion for highway construction, $660 million for NHTSA highway safety programs, and $5.1 billion for transit was approved through March 31, 2012.  As part of the agreement, highway user fees to fund the Highway Trust Fund were extended as well.

The decision to pass the extension at 2011 contract authority levels is a victory for highway supporters.  However, some believe that the six-month length of the extension may also relieve pressure from Congress to move the multi-year authorization bill forward at all before 2012 elections.  Both House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Boxer are pushing to make this the last extension before a comprehensive reauthorization bill is completed in early 2012.

The next step is for Congress to appropriate the authorized funds.  This will initially be done through a short-term “continuing resolution”.  We expect that the first continuing resolution will keep funding levels stable.  Ultimately, final funding levels will be affected by the different perspectives of the House & Senate Appropriations Committees, the work of the “Super Committee” and possibly could be even be affected by the unlikely prospects of Congress agreeing to some jobs bill(s) with an infrastructure elements to it.

If you are a Member of The Highway Users and have any questions, please feel free to contact Greg Cohen at gregcohen@highways.org.  Look for additional emails coming soon with more legislative news, including a discussion of the House appropriations bill and President Obama’s Jobs bill.

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