Congress OKs five-year transportation bill
December 4, 2015
In The News
Congress passed a multi-year transportation funding bill Thursday, ending a climate of uncertainty that had prompted transportation officials in Georgia to postpone some highway projects.
The legislation will provide $305 billion through fiscal 2020, to be paid for with federal gas tax revenue and $70 billion in offsets from other areas of the federal budget.
The final version of the bill was put together by a joint House-Senate conference committee.
“This isn’t just a transportation funding bill,” said Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, one of the House conferees. “It’s a jobs bill; it’s an economic competitiveness bill; and it’s a safety bill. It refocuses our efforts to ensure commerce flows freely on our highways and provides more flexibility for Georgia to move forward on our projects.”
Woodall singled out for praise provisions in the bill aimed at streamlining the environmental review and permitting process for transportation projects, giving states added flexibility by funding surface transportation through block grants and prioritizing nationally significant freight corridors.
Attached to the legislation is a provision reauthorizing the controversial Export-Import Bank’s charter through 2019. Despite strong support from U.S. businesses, the agency has been the target of conservative Republicans, who have likened it to taxpayer-funded corporate welfare.
The five-year bill is the first federal transportation funding legislation covering more than two years since 2005.
Uncertainty over long-term transportation funding has made the issue a prime example of partisan congressional gridlock. During the last decade, Congress has lurched from one short-term funding fix to another.
"After far too many short-term patches, this long-term, bipartisan legislation is a victory for commuters, businesses and road builders," said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
But Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., criticized the bill's reliance upon the $70 billion in offsets.
"Our highways need to be repaired and critical infrastructure projects need long-term certainty," he said. "But Washington cannot keep relying on budget gimmicks that leave us worse off down the road."