Road and Transit Groups Join Boxer to Push for Senate Jobs Bill
Representatives from Washington's road and transit lobbies joined Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today to call for swift passage of job-creation legislation that is slated for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress on Monday.
Faced with the prospects of a GOP filibuster, Senate Democrats have taken up a pared-down jobs bill that features a $20 billion rescue of the nation's cash-strapped highway trust fund and an expansion of Build America Bonds, a popular infrastructure financing program.
"Ensuring these are included in the very first jobs package is so essential," Boxer told reporters today. "We just don't have time to wait for an extension of the highway trust fund."
That fund, which provides money for bicycle and pedestrian projects as well as roads, is operating under a stopgap re-upping of the 2005 federal transportation law that is set to expire at the end of the month. Without a $20 billion transfer to keep the fund in the black until 2011, Boxer said, its coffers would run dry sometime in the summer.
John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and William Millar, chief of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), joined Boxer in touting the need for a highway trust fund extension -- which would effectively postpone debate on a new long-term federal transport bill until after the 2010 midterm elections, dealing a blow to House efforts to spur action this year.
"Failing an extension of the authorization bill," Millar said, transit agencies "would not be able to invest the money" Congress already has appropriated for his sector.
Despite support from road and transit interests, as well as bipartisan agreement on the need to keep the highway trust fund solvent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is far from assured of winning 60 votes for his first jobs bill. If the initial measure can squeak through next week, Boxer said senators could soon take up a second jobs bill that includes more infrastructure spending -- potentially in line with the House's $37.3 billion in new investment.