AASHTO: Senate may divide finance bill; would extend highway, transit program

Senate leaders are considering a finance bill that would extend highway and transit program authorization until Dec. 31 and a job-creation bill that could include transportation infrastructure funds, the Association of American State Traffic and Highway Officials (AASHTO) News  reports.

According to the report, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, says Senate Democratic leaders are considering a strategy to split their job-creation package into several measures.

Here’s the rest from the AASHTO report:

The first of the bills, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, is expected to unveil soon, will be focused on tax credits for companies that create new jobs plus an extension of unemployment benefits, Boxer said. While new funding for infrastructure is not likely to be part of that legislation, it is reported to include an extension of surface transportation authorization from Feb. 28 until December as well as a $20 billion transfer of General Fund revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to reimburse it for prior lost interest, she said. More subsidies for Build America Bonds are also likely to be part of the first Senate jobs bill.

The second Senate jobs bill, Boxer said, would include additional funding for highway and transit projects. Draft Senate documents shared with the media this week outlined $25 billion in transportation infrastructure job-creation funds, a decrease from the $37.3 billion approved by the House.

Senators are considering designating $14 billion in job-creation funds for highways and bridges, barely more than half of the $27.5 billion amount representatives passed in mid-December.

“Media reports indicating the Senate is proposing to slash highway spending in a jobs measure by half are quite disappointing,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “AASHTO next week will be releasing an updated report on ‘ready to go’ projects state transportation departments have that could quickly take advantage of federal job-creation funds. This number is nearly 10,000 projects. We all know construction unemployment is the highest of any sector. Money spent on transportation projects will quickly put thousands of additional Americans to work, as state DOTs have extensively demonstrated in the past year by their use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.”