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15

By Ben Husch

On July 10 and 11, a bipartisan group of state legislative transportation leaders and legislative staff were in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and the administration to urge action on surface transportation funding.

State transportation leaders gather outside the White House. They are, from left, Rex Shattuck of Alaska, Representative Terri Austin (D-Ind), Senator Bruce Starr (R-Ore.), Senator John Watkins (R-Va.), Senator  Scott Dibble (DFL-Minn.), Senator Curt Bramble (R-Utah), Senator Robert Plymale (D-W.W.) and Senator Michael Vehle (R-S.D.). On July 10, the group— led by Oregon state Senator Bruce Starr (R), NCSL’s president—met with top congressional and administration officials. The members highlighted the importance of ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is responsible for reimbursing states for transportation projects, remains solvent. If HTF reserves go below $4 billion, which the U.S. Department of Transportation has forecast will occur at the end of July, the federal government would have to delay payments to states. They also stressed that Congress put the pedal to the medal in reauthorizing federal transportation programs as their authorization is set to expire in less than three months. During meetings with administration officials at the White House, the group stressed the need for a long-term solution that would provide states with the certainty they need to make smart, targeted and economically beneficial investments in their transportation systems.

On July 11, the group participated in an in-depth discussion on the historical and future relationship between states and the federal government as it relates to funding for transportation programs. As part of this discussion, NCSL partnered with the Pew Charitable Trusts and was joined by Peter Rogoff, acting undersecretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, along with several House and Senate congressional staff.

Although no magic beans were discovered over the course of two days of meetings and in-depth discussions, NCSL members were on the Hill pressing Congress to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund the same day that both House and Senate committees agreed on similar legislation that would ensure the fund’s solvency through May 2015. Congress is expected to finish this legislation before it leaves for its August recess. Even with the short term issue apparently solved for now, however, come May, the HTF will again face insolvency and we may find ourselves going down this road again.

Ben Husch is committee director for the natural resources and infrastructure committee in NCSL’s Washington, D.C., office.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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