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Financial Bandaid Congress passes temporary funding fix

BY J.K. JONES Contributing Writer

Maybe the 10th time will be the charm.

But trucking insiders shouldn’t count on a divided Congress to agree on much in an election year, not even on legislation as critical as maintaining the nation’s transportation system. And the clock is ticking—again—after

lawmakers on March 29 decided to give themselves a little more time to come to terms on a new highway bill and replace the current plan that has been doing overtime since October 2009. This ninth extension, 90 days’ worth,

came less than two days before the existing spending program—Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users—was set to expire, and with it the government’s ability to collect federal motor fuels taxes, which feed the Highway Trust Fund. (Of note, SAFETEA-LU, a $286 billion measure adopted in 2005, was itself born only after a dozen extensions.) American Association of State Highway

and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Executive Director John Horsley commended the House and Senate for not letting the current highway funding plan expire, and encouraged lawmakers to push through a new program that will allow states to develop those significant transportation plans that require long-term funding — and which support hundreds of thousands of American jobs. “The clock has been reset and we are

optimistic that the House and Senate will use the time available to settle on a new, long- term reauthorization,” Horsley said.

COMPETING BILLS But much more is riding on the legislation

than just the allocation of road construction funds to the states — and, ideally, highway


improvements that will benefit all truckers. Language in the competing House and Senate bills also feature policy changes that would directly impact the trucking industry — for better or worse. The American Trucking Associations (ATA),

which has had highway reauthorization at the top of its advocacy to-do list for more than five years, was encouraged by the plans from both houses of Congress.

ISSUE 2, 2012 |

Of the two-year, $109 billion Senate plan

that passed with solid bipartisan support, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said the legislation “is an example of how things should work in Washington.” “As representatives of the trucking

industry, we’re particularly pleased to see this bill provide not just attention to — but $2 billion a year in funding for — highway freight- specific projects, reforms and consolidates


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