The search for a way to continue to pay for road construction and transit projects came down to the wire last night, and in the end, the House and Senate agreed on a $10.6 billion short term funding measure that will keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through May, 2015. Dow Jones Business News has the details.
Earlier in the day, the House, on a 272-150 vote, rejected a bill the Senate had passed on Tuesday night that would have funded the programs only through Dec. 19. In insisting on its approach, the House prevailed, meaning lawmakers will push a debate over highway funding into the new year.
The Senate accepted the House version by a vote of 81-13. The bill goes to President Barack Obama, who has indicated he would sign it into law.
The House passed its version of the highway bill back on July 15th by a margin of 367-55, despite an effort by conservative groups to deny passage. Both Club For Growth and Heritage Action said they would use the vote on the bill in their respective vote scorecards. They cited loose accounting rules that would pay for ten months of spending with ten years of taxes, and their support for Rep. Tom Graves’ Transportation Empowerment Act, that would devolve much of the responsibility for funding transportation projects to the states.
The Georgia delegation split on the original vote, with Congressmen Broun, Collins, Austin Scott and Westmoreland voting no. The remainder of the delegation, including the state’s Democratic reps but excluding Jack Kingston who did not vote, voted yes.
Proponents of the Senate amendment hoped the shorter extension would force Congress to consider a longer-term solution during the lame duck session after the November elections. The amendment passed without the help of Georgia Senators Isakson and Chambliss, both of whom voted no. The substitute then ping ponged back to the House, which insisted on the original measure.
This time, all the Republicans in the Georgia delegation, along with Democrat John Barrow voted yes. Reps. Bishop, Johnson, Lewis and David Scott voted no. Late last night, the Senate finally accepted the House version, sending it to the President’s desk. Both of Georgia’s Republican senators voted yes on final passage.
Perhaps after the November elections and a possible change in control of the Senate, the new Congress will be able to fashion a longer-term solution.
D.C. lawmakers aren’t the only ones dealing with how to fund transportation. Two years after metro Atlanta voters rejected the TSPLOST, a committee meets on Tuesday to attempt to figure out how to fund Georgia’s transportation needs. Yesterday, the AJC’s Kyle Wingfield weighed in with his thoughts on what that committee should do.
At the county level, the Cobb County Commission punted on a proposal to build a bus rapid transit that would connect to MARTA in Atlanta. Clayton County voters will decide whether to join MARTA in November.
Federal, state and local agencies are all going to have a role in funding transportation needs. There is no shortage of projects and priorities. Now all we have to do is to come up with a long term way of funding them.