Rep. John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has indicated that he would like Congress to finish work on a multi-year highway transportation reauthorization by September. Finish? When are they going to start?! It seems that he says the same thing every week, but neither the House nor the Senate has yet to introduce bills. So, is this really going to happen?
Additionally, it is rumored that most House Republicans are concerned about the political ramifications of passing a bill that authorizes hundreds-of-billions of dollars over six years. So, they may not be that interested about moving fast on any bill.
While all of this is brewing, the administration has been circulating a 500 page "unofficial" draft bill. It is important to note that the U.S. Department of Transportation has recently said that the "unofficial" bill is a dated document and that the authorization dollar numbers in it are being reworked. Reworked up? Down? Who knows? The draft is meant to serve as a starting point to understand the administration's principals in reauthorizing the transportation bill.
So let’s see – the administration has an unofficial, old and dated, 500-page draft bill; the House and Senate have nothing yet, but keep promising this is going to be done in the next 2-3 months. The administration’s bill includes more money, but is being reworked in some way; the Senate has discussed funding levels above current levels, while the House talks about a 30 percent cut next year and possibly for the next several years.
There seems to be agreement on the following points: no earmarks, increased emphasis on loan programs, consolidation of programs and elimination of others, (although no agreement on what programs fit into what categories), and more emphasis on freight movement. That is it – and summer is coming – trust me it is!
I have read parts of the administration’s 500-page bill, but don’t plan on spending a lot of time on it. There isn’t the level of agreement on most of the important points to suggest we can or should be confident there will be a bill anytime soon. People are already lining up to be the next president – that means an election is coming soon and that means no new revenue. Get ready for year three of SAFETEA-LU continuing resolutions.