Skepticism is being expressed about the six-year, $350 billion highway bill passed by the Senate.
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer brought Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to Nebraska to promote the transportation measure approved by the Senate just prior to Congress leaving Washington for its August break. The House balked and Congress approved a three-month, $8 billion extension of current highway funding to give time for the two chambers to negotiate.
Fischer serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.
Foxx pointed out during his visit that Congress has approved 34 extensions to highway funding since 2009 and said he sees the Senate action as an encouraging sign that a long-term transportation bill is possible.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse agrees Congress needs to approve a long-term transportation bill, but he worries about the financing attached to the Senate bill, contending that though supporters call it a six-year bill, it has guaranteed funding only for the first three years.
“There are a number of funding mechanism inside this three-year bill that I think would constitute accounting gimmicks. So, I wish the bill were better,” Sasse tells Nebraska
Radio Network. “It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House and hopefully we can improve upon it when the final bill comes to both houses of Congress.”
Sasse says he supports the long-term highway infrastructure component of the bill, just not the funding of it.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says there is wide-spread agreement that a new transportation measure is needed.
“The issue is not whether or not we need a long-term highway bill and if Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on that, because we all do. The issue is the payment for it,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, as a part of a longer term tax reform measure which may be on the horizon that could include components that would become the funding stream for a highway bill.”
Fortenberry says the House will work on its own measure.
“The disposition of the House, as I’ve heard it from the Speaker, is to let the chairman of the House committee write his own bill and then I would think there might be some attempt to reconcile the Senate and House bills,” Fortenberry says.
Congressman Brad Ashford says Congress needs to look long term.
“We need to get beyond the patches. I still have hope that we can come up with a bill that will utilize assets situated in off-shore, bring them back, $165 billion, and apply those dollars for a six-year plan for roads,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It has to happen. I think there is an appetite for it.”