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NSSGA's Johnson: Work on Final Highway Bill Encouraging

Representatives from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have already begun to conference in order to reconcile their respective highway bills. With a little luck, a final bill could be on the president's desk before Thanksgiving.

The prospect of a long-term highway bill has Michael W. Johnson, president and CEO of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, excited and confident. "I am encouraged by how quickly the conferees have begun to talk about the final bill," Johnson told Rock Products. "We have waited through a lot of short-term extensions. This is what we really need to send a positive signal to our members; and to the market, so it has the confidence to let long-term projects."

Johnson predicts there may be some surprises in final bill. "One of the dynamics that has been thrown in the mix is the possibility of some money being brought to the table through the Federal Reserve Surplus fund," he said.

The Federal Surplus Fund could be tapped for somewhere between $20-40 billion, which would be added to the final dollar allocation.

"If that happens, it may be better to go for a five-year bill at a higher dollar amount per year," Johnson said, noting that that would have a greater and more immediate impact on transportation and infrastructure construction.

"At the end of the day, we have always advocated for an increase in investment and a multi-year bill," Johnson said. "Either way, we are going to achieve that."

Republican senators named as conferees include Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, Okla., Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, S.D., EPW Committee member John Barrasso, Wyo., Commerce Committee member Deb Fischer, Neb., and Finance Committee and leadership member John Cornyn, Texas.

Democrat senators on the committee include EPW Committee ranking member Barbara Boxer, Calif., Banking Committee ranking member Sherrod Brown, Ohio, Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson, Fla., Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, Ore, Finance and Banking Committees member Charles Schumer, N.Y., and Appropriations Committee and leadership member Dick Durbin, Ill.