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Surface and Aviation Funding on a Three Month Fix?

It seems both surface transportation and aviation funding may be on the path for three month “fixes” if Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar has his way.

SURFACE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
With only two weeks left until the authority for federal surface transportation programs expires, Chairman James Oberstar is reported that he will move a three-month temporary extension of federal surface transportation programs this week.  The bill will extend the current programs and funding levels which are set to expire on September 30 until the end of the calendar year.
Until last week, Oberstar repeatedly said there would not be a temporary extension for any length of time, insisting Congress must move a six-year bill. The Obama administration has requested an 18-month extension, however, and key Senate committees have endorsed that idea.  We have written before supporting the 18-month extension. 

In the meantime, the Senate is expected to consider a bill that would extend federal surface transportation programs through March 2011 at current funding levels. The Senate bill would transfer $19.8 billion from the government's General Fund into the Highway Trust Fund to cover the short fall in the highway trust fund. The money represents reimbursements to the trust fund of $12.5 billion in interest payments not made since 1999 and $7.3 billion for emergency spending taken out of the trust fund in recent years and not replenished.  No specific timetable is available yet on the Senate bill.

At the same time rescissions of highway funds are looming on September 30 also and the Governors have asked for relief of the $8.7 billion.   I have written here about the rescissions before.

AVIATON FUNDING

Today, CQ Politics reports that Chairman Oberstar is also preparing a “clean” three-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration programs.  The FAA has been operating on numerous short-term authorizations, the most recent of which will expire at the end of September.  The Senate Finance Committee is also working on a three-month extension, which would give the Senate until the end of the year to finish its full reauthorization bill.

The House passed Chairman Oberstar’s multi-year reauthorization measure May 21, 2009 and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation panel has approved its portion of the Senate bill.   However, the Finance panel has yet to report out the revenue titles.

It will be interesting to see if what the three month extension buys us.

Shirley Ybarra is Senior Transportation Policy Analyst


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