Washington drops transportation funding ball again

March 27, 2012

Events in Washington the last two weeks provide further evidence of the need for states to take transportation funding needs into their own hands.

Last week, Republicans in the U.S. House succeeded in killing a Senate-passed $109 billion, two-year measure that would have supported nearly 3 million jobs.  The Senate bill passed by a 74-22 vote with bipartisan sponsorship and support.

Instead, House Republicans introduced legislation to continue funding at its current level for 90 days.  If such a measure were approved, it would make the ninth extension since the most recent multi-year federal funding bill expired more than two years ago.

This week, faced with defeat of the extension bill by a combination of Democrats who want a vote on the Senate bill and conservatives who oppose the extension, the Republican leadership canceled the vote.  A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the vote will be rescheduled for later this week.

At stake is the government’s authority to spend money on transportation programs and levy federal fuel taxes, which expires at midnight Saturday if neither the extension nor the Senate bill are passed.  As many as 1.8 million construction-related jobs are believed to be at risk, just as states are gearing up for the spring and summer construction season. The government would also lose about $110 million a day in revenue in uncollected gas and diesel taxes.

“It’s a mess.  There’s no other way to describe it,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner.  “Federal transportation policy is in shambles.  The needs are great, the revenue sources are far from adequate, and Congress doesn’t have the wherewithal to do anything about it.”

InPennsylvania, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch has told the Senate Transportation Committee that Governor Corbett will meet with legislative leaders at the end of April to discuss the issue.

“We’re hopeful that those discussions will bear fruit, because it’s clear that solutions at the federal level are extremely unlikely,” Wagner said.  “If Pennsylvania is going to have a 21st Century transportation system, it’s going to be up to Pennsylvania to make it happen.”


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