More funding roadblocks

There’s another last-minute scramble under way in Congress. This one isn’t about the debt ceiling or general budget issues. Instead, it has to do with funding for highways in this country before the current authorization runs out.

If it feels like we just had such a scramble, you’re right. It was early this spring when Congress cobbled together a short-term highway funding bill to keep the gasoline tax authorized and to continue highway construction projects that provided needed maintenance and needed jobs.

But that extension runs out June 30, and Congress must renew the transportation bill to keep high funding rolling along.

As is typical of this Congress, the Democrat-controlled Senate has passed one version of a bill to extend highway funding for a whopping 18 months. The House, controlled by Republicans, has passed a separate version, and a conference committee was formed to iron out the differences.

But reports are that the conference committee talks have stalled and may be at an impasse. In an attempt to get the talks moving again, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, reportedly met Tuesday, along with conference-committee leaders from their respective parties.

We hope they are successful, but it’s hard to be optimistic that they will actually fashion a new transportation bill. It’s been three years since the last real transportation bill expired. Since then, we’ve had nine short-term extensions that simply maintained the status quo, according to The Hill newspaper.

With that sort of uncertainty, it’s difficult for highway planners, contractors or their employees to anticipate what they will be doing two weeks from now, much less two years hence. And it bodes ill for the systemic maintenance of our highways.

But such is life under the bitterly divided Congress that now sits in Washington, D.C.


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