In this month’s DC Velocity, you will find an excellent read in Group Editorial Director Mitch Macdonald’s Outbound column. Under the title, “Misdirected Anger”, he discusses the lack of anger about the Congressional handling of highway funding when there is so much anger about everything else. I highly recommend it.
As I have written here several times, the lack of infrastructure funding is a serious problem that Congress seems unwilling or unable to resolve. This is not intended to be a political column and I am not representing myself to be on either side of the chasm separating Democrats and Republicans. I do claim to be – maybe not angry – but interested, frustrated, confused, and appalled. It is incredible to me that there have been 34 short-term highway funding extensions since 2009. If they keep kicking that can down the road, Congress will have to buy a new can.
House Speaker John Boehner became so disappointed and frustrated in his role that he is leaving Congress altogether at the end of October. A large segment of the American public has become so frustrated with our political leaders that they have positioned an egomaniac with bad hair as the front running Republican presidential candidate. These concerns of course, are not necessarily about highway funding, but no doubt the myriad of other issues facing us.
As almost everyone in our industry is aware, just before Congress went on vacation, the Senate passed a six year highway bill; but instead of considering that, the House served up a three month $8 billion stop-gap extension, due to expire on October 29. When signing the extension, even President Obama got a little testy saying, “We can’t keep on funding transportation by the seat of our pants.”
So now here we are 30 days away from probably what will be the 35th kick of the can. The House should be pulling out all stops to work out an agreement with the Senate on a new six year bill. What do you think the chances of that are?
As early as September 10, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa) said the House likely will move ahead with a short term funding extension. He went on to say it would take several months to negotiate a final bill. Now with more recent developments such as electing a new Speaker, sorting out Planned Parenthood funding, keeping the government from shutting down, and other pressing issues, passing a long term bill before October 29 is becoming even less likely. Most of the public won’t think much about it, even though they should. But highways do not generate as much emotion as such things as immigration, Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, tax reform, and Hillary’s E Mail, especially with a presidential election on the horizon.
There is however, a bit of good news in all this. Due to the failure of Congress to act, a number of states have moved ahead with fuel tax increases and other methods of funding new roads. As a result, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has said they will have enough money in the fund to last until July, 2016. By that time however, it will be too close to the election to make a decision of any kind. Want to go for 36?