Highway and mass transit programs funded by the highway trust fund gas tax received a last-minute reprieve after the Senate passed a GOP House-crafted $11 billion 10-month extension of the tax they had overwhelmingly rejected two days ago. But as happy as transportation interests will be to have something in place, the bill’s passage nevertheless represents a defeat for asphalt, trucking and other business groups that have long pushed for a hike in the gas tax and a five- or six-year transportation bill.
The Senate’s 81-13 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature mere hours before the Transportation Department said it would need to begin cutting payments to states and on the brink of a five-week congressional vacation. Failure to act would have put 700,000 jobs at risk, according to the administration.
Note: Congress predictably waited until the last minute to reauthorize the gas tax and set up another show down in 10 month’s time. After its August recess, Congress must address the reauthorization of MAP-21, the two-year general fund allocation that augments the dwindling revenue from the gas tax to fund transportation projects though October 2014.