House to Move on Energy and Transportation Bill

January 24, 2012

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for User (SAFETEA-LU) – the current federal law authorizing our federal highway and transit programs – is set to expire on March 31, 2012. Whether or not the House and Senate can reconcile the differences in their bills before time runs out remains to be seen. The most likely scenario is a year-long extension until after the elections.

As early as this Friday, the House will unveil its transportation reauthorization proposal. Reports indicate that it would provide for a long-term (five year) reauthorization of federal highway and transit programs, and an expansion of domestic energy production (oil and gas drilling) to help support transportation and infrastructure programs. The House proposal reportedly will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $260 billion, with oil and gas revenues making up a nearly $100 billion shortfall from the Highway Trust Fund.

The Senate bill, a portion of which was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last year with bipartisan support, is a two-year reauthorization bill that will cost an estimated $109 billion. The Senate Finance Committee still has to approve their portion of the bill and in doing so identify $12 – $13 billion in pay-fors to meet the $109 billion price tag.

The House and Senate remain far apart on both bills and it will be interesting to see if they will be able to reconcile their differences prior to March 31. Our prediction is that the House will pass their bill, the Senate will pass theirs, and then we will get another year long extension until after the elections.