My father was a dentist, so I know a little bit about pulling teeth. And I can tell you, getting adequate funding for transportation and infrastructure projects through Congress has been like a fight to the finish with a mandibular lateral incisor.
House and Senate leaders finally reached an agreement Sept. 9 to extend surface transportation and aviation programs. The House passed the extensions Sept. 13 by voice vote. On Sept. 15, the Senate approved the Surface and Air Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (H.R. 2887).
The bill, which the president signed on Sept. 16, extends surface transportation and airport construction programs until Mar. 31, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2012, respectively. The legislation extends current levels of contract authority for the highway program at $39.9 billion, minus the $3.1 billion in rescissions of unobligated contract authority in the FY’11 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.
Had the programs lapsed, the Highway Trust Fund would have lost $100 million per day in gas tax revenue and more than 1.6 million jobs would have been at risk.
According to NSSGA, the agreement was reached following a showdown between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) over a hold placed on the transportation spending bill by Coburn because of objections he had to it and an unrelated emergency management measure.
Long-term bills for highways and the FAA remain stalled. The Republican-led House has proposed a six-year, $235 billion bill, which equals a 35 percent cut in highway funding. The Democratically controlled Senate has proposed a two-year, $109 billion bill with adjustments for inflation. At press time the Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations subcommittee had approved its draft fiscal 2012 spending bill, but details were not available. President Obama has asked for $69.675 billion in transportation funding for FY’12.
Message to all readers: Congress just passed an extension that amounts to a bandage on a gaping flesh wound. The industry must continue to push for adequate funding for America’s crumbling roads and bridges.
Our jobs depend on it.
Mark S. Kuhar, editor
Member: Construction Writers Association