Stimulus bill goes further than ‘better roads’

| 1/16/2009

There’s much ado about the proposed stimulus package being considered on Capitol Hill. Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them and truckers are no exception.

On Thursday, Jan. 15, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its version of an $825 billion proposal consisting of a $275 billion tax cut and a $550 billion spending bill.

Senate leaders were scheduled to unveil their version on Friday, Jan. 16.

In the spending bill, $43.1 billion is proposed for the U.S. Department of Transportation and $30 billion would be specifically set aside for state highway and bridge projects.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says truckers are on the front line to benefit from a stimulus package.

“In terms of the overall movement of goods, truckers will see the benefit first,” Spencer told Land Line.

“That’s good news because we’ve seen the economy slowing in trucking for two years now. I’m optimistic that right now is the slowest it’s ever going to get.”

The House bill also includes $300 million for national and state loan programs to address diesel emissions. Grants are to include exhaust retrofitting programs and financing for anti-idling equipment, including auxiliary power units.

“Those are things that truckers will see a direct benefit from in terms of the economic activity that they will generate,” Spencer said.
The road and bridge money will flow to states by formula. State governments will have strict guidelines using it quickly or losing it to other states.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee requested $85 billion for programs under its jurisdiction, but Appropriations Committee leaders chose to make it $63 billion in the bill.

The House T&I Committee will have a full committee hearing on Thursday, Jan. 22, to make the case for $85 billion.

Spencer points out that the bill is still a work in progress at this stage.

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are scheduled to be inaugurated on Tuesday, Jan. 20, as part of a busy week in Washington, DC.

House Appropriations Committee members are scheduled to mark up the stimulus bill the following day. The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a markup for the day after that, on Thursday, Jan. 22.

– By David Tanner, staff writer