House Group Wants Winner-Take-All Transportation Funding Vote

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DALLAS -- A bipartisan group of 10 House members said Friday they want a winner-take-all vote on up to a dozen proposed highway revenue measures before the current two-month extension of federal transportation funding expires July 31.

Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and eight others sent a letter to House leaders, asking for a "Queen of the Hill" rule that would allow the House to vote on multiple options to extend funding for surface transportation infrastructure. The proposition receiving the most votes would become the House position for funding a multiyear transportation bill.

"It is time for the House to vote so that all members can be held accountable by our constituents," the lawmakers said in the letter, which was sent to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "This approach will ensure that the will of the House is adopted and predictability and certainty in our transportation program is restored."

If Congress fails to act by the end of the month, federal funding for repairing crumbing roads and bridges across the country will expire, Ribble and Welch said.

"A 'Queen of the Hill' approach would allow the House to consider the approximately 10 long-term solutions that have been introduced to finally fix transportation funding," Ribble said at a Capitol Hill news conference on Friday.

Transportation revenue options on the table range from increases in the federal gasoline tax to corporate tax overhaul, said Welch, Vermont's sole House member.

"It is essential that Congress pass a long term and sustainable revenue source so that state transportation planners have the certainty they need to plan and execute infrastructure projects," Welch said. "Queen of the Hill will end the impasse that has led to a band aid approach to our highway program."

Ribble and Welch said last month that they were circulating the letter in the House. It was not sent to House leaders until July 8, as the Senate prepares to take action on transportation funding.

Co-signers to the House letter include Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Andy Barr, R-Ky., Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., John Carney, D-Del., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.

Lawmakers must come up with as much as $100 billion of additional revenue to bolster fuel tax collections dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund for a six-year transportation reauthorization bill, and $11 billion or so if the HTF is extended through the end of the calendar year.

In other news, four senators have introduced the Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment Act to make permanent the popular TIGER discretionary grant program. Sponsors include Sen. Patty Murray, who first proposed the TIGER program in 2009 as part of the stimulus effort, and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

TIGER grants totaled $500 million in fiscal 2015, but the House passed a FY2016 transportation appropriations measure last month that reduced the funding to $100 million. President Obama's proposed Grow America Act would boost TIGER funding to $1.25 billion per year for six years.

Meanwhile, opposition to bills pending in Congress that would turn over most highway funding responsibilities to states could earn lawmakers negative marks from Heritage Action, the conservative group said Thursday.

The devolution proposal sponsored by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would reduce the federal gasoline tax from the current 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents over three years.

"The legislation would solve myriad problems, not the least of which is the flawed dynamic between the federal government and the states with regard to how federal gas tax dollars are spent," Heritage Action said. -

 

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