The press conference is on the way today, so guesswork now is probably a waste of time. But just which reauthorization bill we see today will make a major difference come tomorrow.
House Republicans are expected to propose spending about $270 billion in a bill that will span four and a half years . That’s not enough to halt the deterioration of our transportation infrastructure, although I think the House Republicans will argue that it is. It will help us jump-start projects that can address the most serious deficiencies in the system, allow some long-term planning and multi-year work which are both desperately needed, and it will create jobs.
The four and a half years makes sense when you consider the Senate wants a two year bill spending $109 billion and the House is unlikely to get the full six years the industry wants and needs. Compromise being the name of the game 4.5 is not a bad number. Should the economy pickup enough over those 4.5 years the next renewal (after the inevitable extensions) might find more funding, although its hard to be that optimistic given the current political climate.
GOP leaders will to introduce the bill today on the steps of the capitol. The House Transportation Committee is poised to approve the measure at a meeting on Thursday. The a separate committee has to fill in all the big gaps — where the money comes from. (The Senate bill faces the same shortfall problem)The Highway Trust Fund doesn’t have enough to provide the $270 billion. Republicans want to bridge the gap with revenue from expanded oil and gas drilling, but Democrats argue that (a) there will not be enough revenue to bridge the gap (b) whatever revenue will not come quickly enough and (c) whatever revenue should come from existing drilling and exploration not new drilling and exploration.
So we have a sort of Super Bowl week of our own. We get to watch the proposal explained and voted on and watch the hard hitting and blocking, the Hail Marys and deception plays, fumbles and controversial catches of some of the best in the game.