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House Passes Highway Stopgap Bill, Further Action Expected in Senate before August Recess

On July 10th, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a short term bill to patch the Highway Trust Fund until May of 2015. The bill was quickly scheduled for a vote before the entire House and on July 15th it passed by a vote of 367-55.


The Highway Trust Fund is in trouble due to lagging revenues. The Department of Transportation has indicated that it needs at least $4 billion in cash balances available in the highway account to meet obligations as they are due. The Fund is scheduled to reach that $4 billion threshold in late July. If a solution is not found by then, payments to states for highway projects will be delayed.


The bill passed by the House raises $10.9 billion through the “smoothing” of employee pensions over the next decade allowing employers to defer payments for future benefits, extending existing customs user fees, and a transfer from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. President Obama reluctantly backed the plan, saying he still seeks a longer term solution to the funding shortfall.


A similar measure also passed the Senate Finance Committee on July 10th, although it differs from the House version in the ways it pays for the stopgap. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) sought a bill that would last until the lame duck session where he believed a better deal could be reached on a long term bill, but compromised with the House approach to ensure there is no lapse in funding.



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