Legislative – Senate to Consider SAFETEA This Week

On Tuesday, May 10, 2005, with other business intermixed, the Senate returned to consideration of SAFETEA. It is certain that much of this week’s business will be tied up in discussions about the supplemental appropriations measure and judges. It is also becoming clearer that the Senate will complete their consideration of SAFETEA this week – they are preparing for completion this Thursday, May 12.

Monday morning, the staff of the Senate EPW and Finance Committees jointly briefed highway advocates on their agreement to proceed on an amendment to provide additional funding within the Senate bill. As previously reported, Senators Grassley and Baucus have been working on an amendment that would generate approximately $10 – 16 million in new revenues. In the briefing, staff laid out a strategy that included Senators Grassley and Baucus’ funding increase.

The new funding level will be a five-year $251 billion in contract authority and $251.9 in guaranteed spending bill (approximately $295 billion guaranteed over six years). The funding level is over $11 billion more than the original level of $284 billion bill for six years. The amendment will increase the highway formula by $8.9 billion, and increase public transportation by $2.3 billion. A state-by-state analysis of the $251 billion five-year bill is now available. Click here to print analysis 

The current plan is to have Senators work with the relevant Committees of jurisdiction on their amendments –– with the EPW Committee remaining the lead policy Committee. In the end, they hope to produce a large amendment of acceptable amendments (including Grassley/Baucus) that will hopefully end debate and the multitude of amendments coming at them on the Senate floor. They hope to finalize consideration this week and proceed to conference. That goal seems likely as the funding increase is below what most expected and paid for with budgetary offsets.

Because the Grassley/Baucus amendment will be included in the larger manager’s package, there will be NO VOTE on the specific amendment but a vote on final passage of the full manager’s package, which could occur Thursday or Friday of this week. Please urge your Senators to vote “YES” on final passage, House-Senate conference committee will reconcile differences between each body’s bill. The sixth extension of TEA-21 expires May 31 and conferees will be hard pressed to complete final action by the deadline.

MITA will keep you updated, or visit the Funding Fairness website for further information. Contact Mike Nystrom at the MITA office 517-347-8336 with any questions or comments.