After nearly two weeks of silence, Senate negotiators on
Monday offered a compromise on the spending limits of the stalled highway bill.
The Senate’s compromise calls for $290 billion in spending
in six years. The Senate’s original version called for $295 billion. President
Bush threatened to veto any spending limit higher than $284 billion, which was
the amount approved by the House in March.
According to The Associated Press, the proposal also
called for 92 percent of the money states pay into the federal Highway Trust
Fund through the federal gas tax to become part of the formula that determines
how much each state gets back from Washington.
The House version of the bill called for 88 percent of that
money to go to the general fund.
Another compromise offered by the Senate was a 50-50 split
between the House and the Senate on specific projects. The House bill contains
4,000 such projects with $12 billion earmarked for them. The Senate version
contains no such earmarks.
The negotiators have until June 30 to work out a final
version of the bill before the current extension runs out. The funding
legislation originally expired in September of 2003, but several extensions
have kept the money flowing at the rate set in the expired law.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner Operator
Independent Drivers Association, said he is confident that the bill will pass
“Based on an assessment of the players, it does seem likely
that they are going to push awful hard this time around to get a compromise so
the final dollars do line up right,” he said. “It appears that the leadership
is sincere about getting a compromise worked out.”