The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday he expects a stopgap measure to pass before federal transportation funding expires at the end of May.
Lawmakers have a limited number of legislative days in the coming weeks to push a surface transportation reauthorization bill through Congress, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) noted, and he has talked with both House and Senate leadership on how to get it done. Speaking at a National Journal event, Shuster said his goal is to have the measure cover highway and other infrastructure projects through the end of this year’s construction season.
Once a stopgap is approved, efforts will shift to crafting a long-term funding bill that would cover infrastructure projects for five to six years, he said.
That could mean short-term funding would expire at either the end of fiscal 2015 in September or at the end of the calendar year.
“I feel fairly confident that we’re going to get a long-term bill because both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue want a long-term bill,” he said. “As I travel this country and I think as members travel back to their states, that’s what they hear: ‘We must have a long-term bill.’”
Over the last six years, Congress has funded the nation’s transportation system with 32 short-term measures, including the $10.7 billion measure for fiscal year 2014 that will expire on May 31. If transportation legislation is not passed by May 31, the authority to spend from the Highway Trust Fund will stop.
Many state and local governments across the country have placed critical road and bridge projects on hold due to the uncertainty surrounding federal dollars. Shuster said he is pushing for more infrastructure funding in the long-term bill.
While he said he could not guarantee that he and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would come to an agreement on that, he said he expects funding levels to at least remain the same.
“It’s obviously not going to be the very big, large reform that (former Ways and Means Chairman) Dave Camp was working on, but I think there’s an opportunity to do some smaller things on tax reform,” he said.
Shuster did not give any specifics on what the stopgap or long-term funding bill would include, but he seemed certain of one thing: the measures won’t include a gas tax increase, something that has been pushed for by other members of Congress and some stakeholders.
“When you have the president and the leadership of both (chambers) at different times and of different parties saying no, then it’s very, very difficult,” he said. “I don’t feel that, at this point, it’s possible.”