Legislative Activity

Funding Options for Reauthorization

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said last week that she plans to reveal potential funding options for the Highway Trust Fund soon. Sen. Boxer supports maintaining a user-fee system for surface transportation programs saying to the Transportation Construction Coalition last Tuesday, June 4, that “we can’t go to the general fund anymore to patch our problems.” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also supports a user-pay system, saying “it would be wrong to move away from a funding method that isn’t directly tied to transportation” and that “all ideas are on the table.”

Lautenberg’s Vacancy

The recent passing of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) leaves the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security without a chairman. It is widely believed that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will give up her position as chair of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance Subcommittee for Sen. Lautenberg’s gavel.

Transit Tax Benefit

Reps. Michael Grimm (R-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Peter King (R-NY), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) joined together to introduce the Transit Parity Act (H.R. 2288) last Thursday, June 6. The bipartisan bill will maintain a tax credit for public transportation that creates parity with the tax benefit for commuter parking. Without the tax credit extension proposed by the legislation, commuters taking public transportation will see their tax benefit cut almost in half to $125, while those who drive and park will maintain the current $245 tax benefit.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, June 10: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is planning to vote on the confirmation of Anthony Foxx to be the next transportation secretary. A full Senate vote on Foxx’s confirmation may occur later in the week.
  • Monday, June 10 – Tuesday, June 11: The Chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will hold two roundtable discussions in Illinois this week. Monday’s event in Chicago will examine ongoing efforts to improve the region’s passenger and rail transportation congestion. Tuesday’s event in Springfield will focus on the impacts of freight and passenger rail transportation in Illinois.
  • Thursday, June 13: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development has scheduled a hearing titled “Crumbling Infrastructure: Examining the Challenges of our Outdated and Overburdened Highways and Bridges.”

Executive Branch Activity

Administration’s Proposal for Reauthorization

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood pushed last week for a long-term reauthorization of MAP-21 when the bill expires in September of 2014. Secretary LaHood said “we need a five or six year bill paid for that’s about $500-$600 billion.” Secretary LaHood did not provide any greater detail on what reforms he would like to see included or how a long-term bill would be paid for; however, he does expect President Obama to offer a “bold” proposal with a funding option later this year.

FTA Discretionary Grants

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is expected to release notices of funding availability (NOFAs) in the next couple weeks for three discretionary programs authorized in MAP-21. These programs include the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment program, the Passenger Ferry Grant program, and a pilot program for Transit-Oriented Development.