Just in the nick of time, the House has passed an extension of the current transportation law. The sixth extension of SAFETEA-LU was set to expire this Friday.
Although the House has been cutting every expenditure it can get its hands on, it can’t get its hands on the bulk of the surface transportation program, since it’s funded out of the dedicated Highway Trust Fund (in the process of being renamed the Transportation Trust Fund). This extension passed the House 421-4.
Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) and other committee leaders on both sides of the aisle introduced the extension, which will keep the transportation system funded at current levels until the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Mica says constant short-term extensions have created too many headaches for the industry, which can’t plan amidst such uncertainty.
Top committee Democrat Nick Rahall warned of the repercussions of any failure to pass the transportation extension. “A delay in enactment of this extension will shut down more than $800 million next week in highway reimbursements and transit grants to States and urban areas, endangering more than 28,000 jobs and multi-million dollar construction projects across the country,” said Rahall in a statement. “To keep pace with India, China, and our other international competitors, we need to invest more, not less, in America’s infrastructure.”
A government shutdown could still jeopardize transportation funding, since this bill simply authorizes money, which still must be appropriated and disbursed. Lawmakers are cautiously optimistic that a two-week budget extension, which has now been passed by both houses, will give them enough time to hammer out a compromise on the controversial spending cuts passed by the House.