November 4, 2015 – As ACPA reported last week, the President signed another short term extension (H.R. 3819) into law after both Chambers passed the measure.
The short-term extension provides an additional three weeks of funding for surface transportation programs and extends FHWA’s operating authority through November 20. The extension does not include additional revenue to the Highway Trust Fund, which is estimated to have sufficient funding to continue normal agency operations and reimbursements to States throughout the extension period.
This week, the House has been busy preparing to bring the “long-term” highway bill to the floor, with the Rules committee establishing the framework under which amendments (numbering in the hundreds) will be considered (i.e. deciding which amendments will be considered and which will not).
In very broad strokes, said ACPA Executive Vice President Leif G. Wathne, the House is going to debate what is billed as a six year highway bill, but with only three years of payfors (much of which is uncertain), and at flat spending levels (current levels plus inflation, essentially). It is important to note that the ACPA-advocated AID-PT program is included in this House bill (and in the Senate bill), thanks in large part to the excellent work by our lobbyists and industry partners (including PCA and NAPA).
Although this is not the kind of well-funded, long-term highway bill we all are looking for and deserve, it is better than month-to-month uncertainty and extensions. ACPA, in conjunction with our partners in the Highway Materials Group have been busy urging members of congress and leadership to pass a multiyear highway bill that can be signed into law before the current short-term extension expires in 16 days. Click here to view a letter we sent to members of Congress on Monday.
In that letter, we make the point that status quo funding levels for surface transportation are inadequate, and that Federal-aid Highway Program investment levels should be based on improving pavement and bridge conditions and performance, and the best way to fund the program is with an increase in the excise motor fuels tax combined with annual indexing.
We also make the point that flat funding levels does not provide the long term certainty required for adequate planning and cost efficient resource investment, although this multi-year highway bill is an improvement over the recent short-term extensions. In the final analysis, it is our opinion that this legislation is an important step in resolving the funding dilemma that has been crippling recent efforts to invest properly in America’s highways, roads and bridges.
In other words, it is a step in the right direction, but we are not done!