New Entrant Funding is 100%
The latest reauthorization extension bill that passed the Congress on Friday, February 27 contained a technical amendment that assures 100% funding for states to implement the New Entrant Program. The 2004 Fiscal Year budget contains $25 million as a line item under the MCSAP program for states to implement the Program. As a result of this Congressional action, states can now count on it being100% money.
Six Year Reauthorization Bill Still in Doubt
Since the House did not complete action on a long term reauthorization bill by February 29, the date on which the five-month extension of TEA-21 expired, another two-month extension has been passed.
As we reported in our February 19 update, the Senate has passed a six-year reauthorization bill funded at $318 billion, which is $62 billion above the Bush Administration’s requested level of $256 billion. The House, originally aiming for a $375 billion level, has been working on a scaled down version closer to the Senate’s $318 billion level. But the House Leadership has signaled that it will not allow any reauthorization bill to reach the House floor for a vote unless it is much closer to the $256 billion Administration level ($270 billion is reported to be the absolute maximum ceiling). Therefore, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been hinting that it may write a two-year bill with only a modest increase in funding for highways, transit, and highway and motor carrier safety. It could be that (after the fall elections) revenue measures would have a better chance for support (fuel tax increases) that could fund a six-year bill more to their liking and closer to their originally proposed $375 billion level.
Whether this can happen within the new two-month extension limit and whether the Senate would accept such strategy is unknown at this time. We will keep you posted as events unfold.
Efforts Continue to Seek Compromise on Utility Industry HOS Exemption Issue
CVSA is continuing its efforts to oppose a total exemption from the new hours-of-service requirements for utility service vehicle drivers. Instead, CVSA recommends that the emergency declaration be redefined to include local emergencies, as well as applying the on-duty requirements of the old hours-of-service rules to the utility industry. CVSA believes this compromise is the way to balance highway safety with the public safety need of the utility companies. It appears that support is developing for this compromise.