August 3, 2015

While Congress has made some progress, the House and Senate haven’t yet reached an agreement on long-term federal transportation funding.

Up against the July 31st deadline set by a previous short-term extension passed in May, President Obama signed the only legislation Congress could agree upon before their August recess – another short-term extension lasting through October.

The Senate has been working on – and passed – a long-term reauthorization package called the DRIVE Act, which authorizes the nation’s transportation program for six years, while providing just three years of Highway Trust Fund transfers. The DRIVE Act contains some provisions that MORPC supported to provide more control at the local level.

The House did not take up the long-term Senate bill because of various concerns with it, including the way it is “paid-for,” inclusion of the Export-Import Bank, passing a six-year authorization with only three years of funding identified, and other issues like wanting more time to study the bill.

As the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission continues to position itself as a leader in creating a world-class transportation system for Central Ohio, advocating for long-term federal funding that serves all modes of transportation – as well as seeking additional funding mechanisms – continues to be at the top of MORPC’s public policy agenda.

The hope now is that the House will take up its reauthorization bill after the August recess and that the two bills can be worked out in conference before the program’s new expiration date at the end of October.

Highway funding will join a list of big-ticket items that are “must-pass” in October, including the annual appropriations bills, the annual defense authorization bills, reauthorization of the FAA and its programs, a vote on the Iran nuclear deal, and what if anything to do about sequester. Both Chambers will return to Washington after Labor Day in September, and could be in town until Christmas.