Opinion: Stalemate on federal highway bill
Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on the Surface Transportation Act:
The Surface Transportation Act, called the highway bill for short, is the basic measure funding the nation's roads, bridges and mass transportation systems. Typically, the bill lasts for four to six years, giving state transportation officials needed time for long-term planning.
The last bill expired in 2009. Congress has temporarily extended it nine times since then, most recently in March. That extension expires June 30. So much for long-term transportation planning.
With May's dismal jobs report showing a loss for the month of 28,000 construction jobs, you would think that renewing the transportation act would be an urgent priority. Clearly, you are not a member of Congress, specifically not a Republican back-bencher whose chief role seems to be to make GOP House Speaker John Boehner's life miserable.
In March, the Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion bill, basically to buy time for the House to finish work on its own five-year, $260 billion plan. But urban and rural Republicans can't come to agreement over funding for mass transit.
And there's another, much more significant problem: paying for it. ...
The simplest solution would be to raise the tax — with gas selling well over $3 a gallon, many motorists might not even notice — but that's out of the question in the current political climate. Other proposals, like tolls on the interstate, also are nonstarters. ...
However, Boehner is now talking about putting the whole issue off until after November, where it will be caught up in a crush of lame-duck legislation ... Surely our lawmakers can do better than this.