The Senate gave final approval March 14 to a bipartisan two-year, $109 billion federal surface transportation reauthorization bill that had stalled for weeks as Senate leaders attempted to reach agreement on what amendments would be brought to the floor. The vote was 74-22.
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, MAP-21 (S.1813), maintains current levels of funding plus inflation for federal highway and transit programs. It contains no earmarks, consolidates many federal programs and includes new provisions to expedite project delivery. The legislation also provides for a five year exemption from the state private activity bond (PAB) volume cap for water and wastewater projects and provides for a one year AMT extension for tax exempt bonds. In addition, the legislation contains a number of budgetary offsets and transfers necessary to close a $12 billion gap to pay for the billís funding levels.
Prior to passage, the legislation had stalled for weeks over disagreement on whether or not to allow non-germane amendments on issues ranging from approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and air quality standards for boilers to energy-related tax provisions. An agreement to allow 12 non-germane amendments a week ago gave new life to the legislation and opened the way for a final vote to be taken March 14.
The Senate considered 30 amendments over three days before the final vote. An APWA-supported amendment restoring dedicated funding for off-system bridges was approved by voice vote. The Senate also approved an amendment removing privatized highways from consideration in apportioning highway funding among states, and also passed amendments strengthening Buy America provisions and clarifying exemptions relating to transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies. An amendment to modify the apportionment formula to ensure the percentage of apportioned funds received by a state equaled the percentage of gas taxes paid by a state failed.
Members of the House of Representatives return from a week-long recess the week of March 19 and are expected to consider a retooled House version soon. House leaders suspended consideration of a five-year, $260 billion bill because it did not have sufficient support to pass. A shorter, 18-month version also lacked votes for passage. House leaders are considering taking up the two-year Senate bill or something similar to it if they cannot generate support for a revised five year bill. It is unclear how or whether the House will include PAB in its bill. Last month, supporters of PAB, including APWA, were successful in generating support for a lifting of state volume caps on PAB for water and wastewater projects from House Transportation and Infrastructure leaders.
The eighth extension of federal surface transportation programs expires March 31.