Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 19    Issue 3 - January 27, 2012
 

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

“Very unlikely.” That was Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s outlook for a 2012 reauthorization of surface transportation programs on Jan. 25. Whether in response or not, the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee majority accelerated distribution of its six-year, $240 billion SAFETEA-LU reauthorization, scheduled for markup next week. The Senate hurriedly announced that, after lingering for months in four committees (only one has acted), all committee action on the Senate version of SAFETEA-LU reauthorization (S. 1813) would be completed by early February. There was also a recent unsubstantiated pronouncement by the Senate Finance Committee that it had found $12 billion to fill in the funding gap for S. 1813. Can a law that has survived eight late-in-the game extensions but has not been reauthorized in nearly three years make it over the goal line? The House legislation would extend the program for six years; the Senate for two. The House ties expanded domestic energy production and the revenues it would produce to its reauthorization, while S. 1813 taps the Highway Trust Fund and the mysterious $12 billion. S. 1813 tinkers with current law; the House bill is a comprehensive re-working of surface transportation law. Further differences abound. The road to reauthorization is long, winding and definitely uphill. The only certainty for states is that current extended authority expires on March 31, 2012. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jennifer Arguinzoni.


DEFENSE DOWNSIZING

It’s no secret that deficit savings from the Budget Control Act (BCA) promises cuts in defense spending in the years ahead. It is also no secret that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated yesterday, “the savings will … impact all 50 states.” In presentations to the House and Senate Defense Committees on Jan. 26, the secretary recommends $6 billion (or 1 percent) in cuts for FY 2013. The act calls for $487 billion in defense savings over the next 10 years (10 percent of which is scheduled for FY 2013), so this is a gentle down payment. Secretary Panetta suggested trimming some cargo aircraft and transport planes, and delaying the production of certain fighter jets for possible savings. He also said the president would seek congressional approval for another round of base closures and some military retirement savings based on potential recommendations from study commission to be created. Meanwhile, the question of whether automatic cuts from the sequestration trigger will be realized remains, as Congress considers options to limit the fiscal impact. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley.


BUDGET REHEARSAL

The House Budget Committee Tuesday passed a bevy of bills that would overhaul and streamline the federal budget process. They include legislation that would require: 1) the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to analyze the macroeconomic effects of legislation, known as “dynamic scoring” (the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act; H.R. 3582); 2) CBO to calculate an alternative baseline that makes assumptions on current tax policy (the Baseline Reform Act; H.R. 3578); and 3) the budget resolution to be a joint resolution requiring the president’s signature (the Legally Binding Act; H.R. 3575). Recent discussions have also focused on changing the federal budget process to a two-year cycle. NCSL will keep members abreast of these proposals and any possible state effects as they move through Congress. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley.


AND A SHORTER RUNWAY?

State airport improvement grants and other Federal Aviation Administration programs are the beneficiaries of a 23rd extension, the latest running to Feb. 17, 2012. Negotiators resolved one of four areas of disagreement: the percentage of workers needed to conduct a meeting to determine unionization or decertification. Remaining on the negotiating table are the Essential Air Service, the number of Reagan National Airport long-distance flights, and air transport of lithium batteries. The word to states from the tower is “this reauthorization could be resolved soon.” Passengers, however, should remain seated, given the history of the FAA reauthorization. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jennifer Arguinzoni.


ON THE HORIZON

The White House announced this week that it will submit its FY 2013 budget proposal on February 13. …A House Judiciary subcommittee hears testimony next week on H.R. 2469, which would prohibit new, discriminatory state and local taxes on car rentals and motor vehicle businesses. …With the Senate’s rejection of a joint resolution blocking the president’s recent request to raise the debt ceiling, the federal borrowing authority will be raised to $16.4 trillion.