Last-minute legislation awaits President Obama’s signature, would provide funding through May
The nation’s highway and mass transit programs will be funded for another 10 months after Senate Democrats approved a GOP-crafted $11 billion extension on July 31, 2014, despite rejecting it overwhelmingly earlier in the week. The Senate’s 81-13 vote now sends the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The legislation included a $1 billion transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to the highway trust fund. The eleventh hour approval relieved many, coming mere hours before the Transportation Department said it would need to begin cutting payments to states for any federally-funded highway work, put thousands of jobs at risk.
The bill raises revenue from a controversial budget technique called pension smoothing, as well as boosting customs fees; the money then gets funneled into the Highway Trust Fund, which can no longer maintain program funding at status quo levels on an 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax.
Road and concrete interests were not particularly happy with the bill, as they have long pushed for an increase in the gas tax and a longer-term funding plan. This is the 10th short-term extension of the program in the past five years.
For more on this issue, including the bill’s potential effect on the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund, read “Inside Washington” in the August issue of NACS Magazine.