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AASHTO Journal

Boehner: House Will Move Multiyear Bill by Year's End
House Republicans will introduce a multiyear surface transportation reauthorization bill "in the coming weeks" and "hope to move the legislation through the House before the end of the year," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Thursday. The bill would expand domestic energy production to pay for transportation infrastructure, with funding levels likely to be at or above current levels.

The "energy and infrastructure jobs bill" would combine an expansion of energy production with initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure, according to a posting on the speaker's blog. It would also reform the way infrastructure money is spent.

"It's encouraging to hear Speaker Boehner express his support for transportation infrastructure investment and we appreciate his commitment to move a bill through the House in the near future," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "We look forward to working with the speaker and other members of the House and Senate to pass legislation that will robustly fund federal highway and transit programs for the next several years so states have funding certainty."

Boehner first floated the concept of combining energy legislation with a surface transportation reauthorization bill in a Sept. 15 address at the Economic Club of Washington. (see Sept. 30 AASHTO Journal story)

"Let's link the next [surface transportation reauthorization] bill to an expansion of American-made energy production," Boehner said Sept. 15, according to excerpts posted on his blog Thursday. "Removing some of the unnecessary government barriers that prevent our country from utilizing its vast energy resources could create millions of new jobs. There's a natural link between the two: as we develop new sources of American energy, we're going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to the market."

Prior to the Sept. 15 speech, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Florida, had been under instruction from House leadership to limit a six-year reauthorization bill to funding levels that could be supported by existing revenue into the Highway Trust Fund. That would result in a cut of roughly one-third in federal highway and transit spending compared to the current annual level, which has been temporarily extended eight times by Congress since the last bill expired in September 2009.

Mica has since discussed keeping the prior six-year funding level.

"My floor is the current level," Mica said at a New York railroad conference this week, as reported by the Journal of Commerce. "I'm hoping we can find even more money and increase on a cost-of-living or some other incremental basis the funding for a six-year authorization."

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to mark up a two-year surface transportation reauthorization measure Wednesday, Nov. 9. (see Oct. 21 AASHTO Journal story) The 600-page full text of that bill is available at 1.usa.gov/SEPWC600. A four-page summary is available at 1.usa.gov/SEPWC4. The legislation would authorize highway and transit spending of $109 billion for the two-year period, which Boxer describes as representing the present annual funding level plus inflation adjustments.

Boehner Tells Louisville Audience He Supports Infrastructure Funding

Boehner spoke Monday in favor of pumping federal money into transportation construction and speeding regulatory review of those projects during an appearance with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, before some 800 people at the University of Louisville.

Transportation construction is one area where Republicans in Congress and the White House should be able to find common ground, the speaker said.

"Everybody believes we have infrastructure deficiencies and more needs to be spent to repair, replace, and -- in some cases -- build new infrastructure," Boehner said, as reported by the Associated Press. "The problem is nobody wants to pay for it."

Boehner said Monday that top House Republicans are looking for revenue to help cover the nation's transportation construction needs, AP reported. He added that reforms to transportation programs must be part of the next reauthorization bill, including reducing the time it takes for regulatory reviews prior to construction.

11/4/2011
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.