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2-13-2015 Federal Transportation Briefing

Highway Trust Fund
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and FHWA both came out with updates this week regarding the outlook for the Highway Trust Fund. Neither reflects a substantial change from previous estimates. According to FHWA, the balance will dip below the $4 billion level by June, triggering cash management procedures. In late summer or early fall, cash on hand would fall to $0.

As members of Congress begin to consider surface transportation reauthorization proposals, CBO estimates that, without a tax increase or other changes, a five-year bill at current funding levels would cost $73 billion funding over and above HTF revenue for the time period. That revenue, projected to be $40 billion per year for the next several years, would fall about $14 billion short of expected outlays in FY 2016. CBO assumed normal increases population and thus in driving, but says this is offset by better vehicle gas mileage.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization
Funding was a major topic of discussion during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing this week on surface transportation reauthorization. As the sole panelist, Secretary Foxx advocated a six-year bill, and supplementing trust fund revenue with the proceeds of a one-time mandatory tax on overseas profits. He said that the administration’s bill (which has not yet been released) will not change existing formulas for distributing those funds. Also, Chairman Shuster said the bill his committee is writing will likely continue the current practice of funding transit programs from the HTF.

Passenger Rail Reauthorization
On Feb. 12, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported out, by voice vote, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (HR 749). A nearly identical bill was approved by the committee last year, but did not advance to a floor vote.

Committee assignments

The House and Senate now have committees and subcommittees in place for the 114th Congress. Here is a look at the leadership on key transportation panels:

Senate
    Appropriations
        Chair - Thad Cochrane (Mississippi)
        Ranking Member – Barbara Mikulski (Maryland)
            Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
              Chair – Richard Shelby  (Alabama)
               Ranking Member – Barbara Mikulski

    Environment and Public Works
        Chair – James Inhofe (Oklahoma)
        Ranking Member – Barbara Boxer (California)

    Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
        Chair – Richard Shelby (Alabama)
        Ranking Member – Sherrod Brown (Ohio)

    Commerce, Science and Transportation
        Chair – John Thune (South Dakota)
        Ranking Member – Bill Nelson (Florida)

    Finance
        Chair – Orrin Hatch (Utah)
        Ranking Member – Ron Wyden (Oregon)
        Iowa member – Charles Grassley

House
    Appropriations
        Chair – Harold Rogers (Kentucky)
        Ranking Member – Nita Lowey (New York)
        Iowa member – David Young


    Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
        Chair – Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida)
        Ranking Member – David Price (North Carolina)

    Transportation and Infrastructure
        Chair – Bill Shuster (Pennsylvania)
        Ranking Member – Peter DeFazio (Oregon)
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Funding/authorization expiration dates:
Sept. 30, 2015 – transportation appropriations (HR 83, T-HUD)
Sept. 30, 2019 - water resource and development programs (WRRDA of 2014)
Sept. 30, 2013 - passenger rail and freight safety programs (PRIIA of 2008)
May 31, 2015 - surface transportation programs (MAP-21 extension, in HR 5021)
Sept. 30, 2015 - aviation programs (Air Transportation Modernization & Safety Improvement Act, 2012)

Read entire article:   2-13-2015 Federal Briefing