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Will Senate Finally Tackle Highway Bill?

On Tuesday, July 8, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the Senate could consider a highway bill as early as the week of July 15, and reiterated that the Senate would not recommend increasing the fuel user fee to fund the bill, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).

Reportedly, Senate Republicans would like to extend the highway program beyond the 2016 elections, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the idea of another short term extension is “disgusting.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) commented that “a multiyear is what would make me happy.”

The Obama Administration is also eager for a multi-year deal. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx hinted at a presidential veto of a short-term extension. “I think we’re quickly getting to the point where the value of another extension may be less than the value of breaking the cycle,” he said on July 8.

Secretary Foxx said that the continued delay in Congressional action to deal with highway funding has resulted in delays for much-needed projects in Georgia, Vermont, Tennessee, Delaware and Arkansas. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to have a balance of just over $3 billion at the end of July, which is not enough to cover commitments.

Senators are expected to debate different ways of stably funding a long-term transportation bill if it is brought up next week.

The Senate Community Development and Infrastructure Group, co-chaired by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently recommended funding the highway program by taxing corporate profits being held overseas and transitioning to a user fee based on vehicle miles traveled.

NSSGA President and CEO Michael W. Johnson asserted that Congress needs to act to pass a multi-year highway reauthorization that includes a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure solvency of the program in the future. “Short-term patches of the program are not good policy and only result in increased costs to meet the needs of an aging system that is essential to commerce and the mobility of everyone. No more delays. Congress needs to do what is right for America,” he said.

“NSSGA urges the entire stone, sand and gravel industry to call both of your senators and ask them to support a long-term highway reauthorization – no more short-term patches,” Johnson added. He offered NSSGA’s Hill Hotline (866-255-3207) as a way for anyone in the industry to easily ask their elected officials to support highway reauthorization.