Lawmakers Prepare to Conference Highway Bill

The House of Representatives returns from a week-long recess today and is expected to begin negotiating a six-year highway bill with the Senate in an effort to finalize an agreement on a multi-year highway bill by Nov. 20, when current spending authority on the Highway Trust Fund expires.

Senate leaders last week appointed seven Republicans and six Democrats, including Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) after voting 82-7 to begin bicameral conference negotiations.

Although the House recently passed a six-year highway bill and the Senate passed its version in July, the two chambers have several differences to iron out, including funding.

The Senate’s $350 billion version of the bill includes a proposal to reduce Federal Reserve dividend payments to member banks. The House had passed an amendment that would send an extra $40 billion to the Highway Trust Fund by drawing down the Federal Reserve’s capital surplus account. The amendment also scrapped cuts to the Federal Reserve dividend rate and an increase in the fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  

A group of 40 transportation groups, including the American Trucking Associations and the American Highway Users Alliance, urged lawmakers to boost the amount of money that is spent on road projects when they conference the bills, even if it requires cutting the number of years covered.

Of importance to truckstops and travel plazas, the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member, urged conferees to adopt the House language regarding the tolling pilot program known as the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP).

Similar to the Senate’s DRIVE Act, the House’s Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 imposes a use it or lose it rule on state pilot projects, where states have a three-year deadline to obtain tolling approval under the pilot program. However, unlike the Senate bill, STRRA would amend the ISRRPP to require states to have enabling legislation before a tolling pilot project is approved. STRAA also does not contain the Senate language that would allow toll revenue collected on a particular interstate to be diverted away from that interstate and spent on unrelated projects.

If lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on a highway bill they would be forced to pass another short-term extension.

 

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman's photo

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman develops and executes communications strategies to advance NATSO’s public relations and advocacy goals. Tiffany also develops and oversees partnerships related to the NATSO Foundation’s public outreach initiatives. Tiffany lives in the D.C. metro area with her husband and their two sons.More

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