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Highway Program Extension Looming

With only four legislative days left before the May 31 highway program extension deadline, both chambers of Congress May 15 laid the ground work for a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund contract authority and expenditure authority, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA). Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.), proposed legislation, S. 1350, in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), put procedural motions in place in order for the Senate to take the extension up next week. The House Rules Committee plans to take up H.R. 2353, a similar House version, at a May 18 evening hearing.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill favor a six-month extension through the end of the year, however reaching consensus on the $10 to $11 billion needed to fund the program has proven elusive. The concern regarding the extension to the end of the calendar year is that come December lawmakers will have other pressing issues on their plate and will resort to yet another temporary fix instead of producing a multiyear bill. This shorter extension keeps the pressure on Congress to find a long-term solution.

The latest estimates from the Department of Transportation project that the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will still have about $3.6 billion in cash on hand as of July 31 and the Mass Transit Account will still have $1.6 billion. Those same estimates show the Highway Account hitting a zero balance sometime in late August.

“Major infrastructure can’t be funded on a month to month basis,” said NSSGA Sr. vice president Pam Whitted. “The progress in the Senate and House Senate is a positive step, but until states and localities can move forward without the fear of the federal government failing to meet its funding obligations, our roads, highways and bridges will continue to deteriorate.”