Susan Martinovich, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), together with representatives of several state departments of transportation, held a news conference yesterday to urge Congress to take action before September 30 to extend the gas tax and to reauthorize federal highway and transit programs at current funding levels. The press conference was held at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
A press release reporting the news conference quoted Martinovich, who is also the director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, as saying that "Congress must take action by September 30th, or the federal highway and transit programs that support thousands of jobs in every state will shut down." Both the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax and the seventh extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) are set to expire on September 30.
AASHTO also reports that state transportation officials around the country are taking advantage of the congressional summer recess to advocate for a reauthorization that would maintain existing funding levels. And in recent remarks, President Obama has also been urging Congress to take action, telling audiences: Tell Congress to get past their differences and send me a road construction bill so that companies can put tens of thousands of people to work right now building our roads and bridges and airports and seaports.
Major differences between the proposals currently under consideration are complicated by the fact that Congress has only 11 legislative days scheduled between its return to Washington and the September 30 deadline. Because of the time squeeze, in a conference call to industry stakeholders last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer announced a proposal to extend SAFETEA-LU for another four months at current funding levels, to allow time for Congress to debate and pass a multiyear reauthorization. AASHTO’s report on that proposal is available here. The bipartisan two-year reauthorization bill outlined by Sen. Boxer and Sen. James Inhofe in July would maintain funding at current levels.
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