Work on short-term transportation funding patches heats up as deadline nears

Updated May 19, 2015

congress building at night

Efforts to create at least a short-term patch for transportation funding are in the works this week, with one bill, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HR 2353), set to go before the House of Representatives Rules Committee today (May 18).

Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, and Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), House Ways and Means Committee chairman introduced HR 2353. Ryan had previously announced this patch was in the works back in April.

The bill, which can be read here, extends funding for the Highway Trust Fund until July 31 through a series of “reconciliation of funds” measures amending the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014.

“While highway and transit program spending authority expires at the end of the month, the Highway Trust Fund has sufficient resources to fund its obligations through the end of July,” Shuster and Ryan said in a joint statement. “It was our preference to move an extension through the end of the year, but we will need more time to reach a bipartisan agreement on offsets.

“This legislation will allow transportation spending to continue through July, while we work towards a next step to close the Trust Fund’s shortfall. Doing so will require our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be constructive in working towards a solution. Only then will we be able to produce a plan that gives states the certainty they need to build the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure our communities and economy need to thrive.”

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) have also proposed a two-month transportation funding patch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) used Rule 14, a procedural move that allows legislation be considered without going through committee, to fast-track the proposal, according to a report by The Hill.

Details of the bill have not been made available yet, but a joint statement by Carper and Boxer indicated it would potentially extend the Highway Trust Fund into July, and call for the House and Senate to send a long-term funding bill to the president immediately.

“In the 10 months since the last short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, we’ve come no closer to a solution for providing the long-term funding that is desperately needed to support a multi-year transportation bill,” Carper said in the statement. “It’s clear to me that yet another long extension that patches the trust fund with an assortment of budget gimmicks only guarantees that we’ll push this issue right to the back burner, as we’ve done over and over again.”

Carper continued that the multitude of short-term patch efforts the past 10 years that have “kicked the can down the road” for transportation funding, has interfered with state and municipality project planning.

“Our governors, mayors, citizens and businesses are counting on us to do better than we did last summer and give them the certainty they need for a 21st century transportation system,” he added. “I fear the alternative – kicking the can closer to another election – is a recipe for letting them down again.”