Congress extends highway funding

Congress extends highway funding

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to extend national highway funding programs while Congress considers an assortment of spending proposals.

The legislation would extend the programs through June 20. Congress already extended the highway and transit funding law, which was supposed to expire Sept. 30, through the end of this month.

"This bill is necessary in order to give the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and our colleagues in the Senate time to complete a multi-year surface transportation bill," said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the House committee chairman.

The Senate has made little progress on a $317.5 billion, six-year proposal, known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act. A separate House bill introduced by Young would cost about $375 million over six years.

The White House has proposed spending about $256 billion, and has threatened to veto any measure that would increase the 18.4 cent per-gallon gas tax, as the House proposal would. The Senate bill would not raise the tax, but relies on questionable accounting practices to raise the additional revenue necessary to fund the bill.

Young delayed committee consideration of his proposal to give the House Republican leadership more time to develop alternatives to a gas tax hike.

The House voted 421-0 to pass the four-month extension. It now goes to the Senate, although passage is not guaranteed. Some lawmakers have proposed shortening the extension to encourage Congress to act more expeditiously.