House Republicans on Tuesday night rejected an amendment to proposed rules that would have ensured highway spending would be determined by a long-term transportation bill.
The amendment by Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, would have modified House rules adopted last week by a Republican conference that would give committee chairs the ability to control Highway Trust Fund spending year-by-year. For the past 12 years, Congress has allowed a series of multi-year spending bills to set the priorities for allocating money from the Highway Trust Fund.
The rule has been vigorously opposed by transportation trade groups, with support of labor, safety, construction companies and materials suppliers. They argued that without the guarantee of money from the HTF, states would not be able to make long-term plans for infrastructure repair or improvement.
On Tuesday the American Association of Road and Transportation Builders urged support of the amendment. After the vote, ARTBA President Pete Ruane said the rules will allow the House "to revert to the budget gimmicks of the past that allows the Highway Trust Fund balance to be used to hide the true size of the federal deficit."
"The real life implication of this action is that it injects further uncertainty into the already reeling U.S. transportation construction market, where unemployment is in excess of 18 percent -- twice the national average," Ruane said. "Long-term transportation plans and projects require stable, predictable funding."
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, endorsed LaTourette's amendment. A committee spokesman said Wednesday morning it's not likely there will be any changes to the rules package when the House votes on it later in the day.
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