President Obama on Friday, Sept. 16, signed into law legislation that extends taxes funding federal highway spending through March and the Federal Aviation Administration through January. The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 (H.R. 2887) resulted from an agreement between House and Senate leaders and was seen as a high priority because both federal highway and FAA funding was due to expire.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official applauded the efforts by both houses of Congress. “This extension will allow state DOTs to continue to deliver jobs for our nation’s economy while maintaining the funding continuity needed to operate and maintain a national transportation system,” said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. “We congratulate Sen. (Barbara) Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), as chairs of their respective Senate and House committees, for their leadership and support for a national job creating and sustaining surface transportation program.”
Mica, who introduced the bill, described its passage as “a positive step for the country that the Congress has passed this historic combination of extensions, which is important for job creation and our nation’s infrastructure. With the FAA bill delayed four and a half years and a two-year delay on the highway measure, Congress must now act responsibly to enact long-term reauthorizations that will put Americans back to work and build our nation’s infrastructure. I challenge House and Senate leaders to continue to work toward long-overdue solutions that address our transportation needs. The 22nd FAA extension and eighth highway bill extension must be the last.”
The American Trucking Associations said that while a jobs proposal announced earlier this month by Obama could boost employment temporarily, it is no replacement for passing long-overdue multiyear transportation legislation. “We certainly appreciate that President Obama is again looking at using infrastructure investments to boost the economy,” said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer. “However, his jobs legislation will do little to address our nation’s pressing infrastructure needs and may hinder Congress’ progress on crafting a long-term highway bill.”
Graves said that while the $27.5 billion in Obama’s jobs proposal would help the nation’s economy by funding needed repairs and expansion of roads and bridges, it doesn’t solve the real problem. “For almost two years, we’ve been playing the dangerous game of passing extension after extension, casting doubt on our ability to undertake significant projects,” he said. “While this proposal would help in the short term, if the president wants to foster job creation through infrastructure spending, he should demand Congress pass a well-funded multiyear bill with a focus on core highway programs that address critical regional and national transportation needs.”
Graves also said ATA was skeptical of the president’s plans for an infrastructure bank and for using increases in other taxes to pay for roads and bridges and other programs in the jobs bill. “We’ve long advocated that roads and bridges should be paid for primarily by their users through the most direct taxes possible – fuel taxes,” Graves said. “Allowing private capital to take their cut as part of an infrastructure bank, or by taxing other sectors to pay for roads and bridges, takes us further away from this core principle.”