Senate offers compromise on Highway Bill

| 6/21/2005

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 this time.

“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.”