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Transportation Discussions Hot and Heavy

nssgaJune 27, 2012 – According to NSSGA, congressional stakeholders continued to bargain, cajole, argue and negotiate a new infrastructure deal. Nothing is for certain at this point, but the rumors flying around Washington center around these main points:
  • A 27-month bill (providing Highway Trust Fund authorizations from July 2012 through September 2014), if talks last night between the Ways and Means and Finance Committees were successful. The Senate bill as passed ended in September 2013, but this is the same two-year duration as the Senate bill was back when it was drafted in July 2011.  The House supposedly wanted to move a five-year bill (through 2016) but could not find the money.
  • The primary funding offset is expected to be the "smoothing" of private sector pension payments, as first proposed by Reid on June 7. An earlier Joint Tax Committee score of this legislation (JCX-25-12) found that it would raise a net total of $9.4 billion from FYs 2012-2022 and that about $7.5 billion would be raised over the period of the proposed highway bill (FYs 2012-14).  This would probably be combined with the transfer of $3 billion in prior gas and diesel tax receipts from the LUST Trust Fund to the HTF as first proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
  • The House apparently will drop the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash titles of the bill. In exchange, the Senate will drop expansion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and has made significant concessions to the House on the project delivery (a.k.a. "environmental streamlining") provisions in the highway title.
  • Title V of Division C of the Senate bill (the "National Rail System Preservation, Expansion, and Development Act of 2012") is likely to be dropped in its entirety.
  • As of late in the evening of June 26, there were still several provisions that had not been settled. In the highway title, this amounted to a dozen or so smaller issues and the thorny mega-issue of the formula by which almost all highway funding is apportioned to states. Debates over formulas have been the root of many filibusters and other delays of highway.