On Friday, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) released the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015, a bi-partisan bill introduced by T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves and subcommittee Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton. The bill authorizes federal public transportation and highway programs for six years. While the bill does not currently have a Ways and Means Committee financing title, it is expected that the finance title will provide funding for only the first three years of the authorization, much like the recently passed Senate companion bill.
The committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Thursday, October 22, at 10 am. Although the measure has not yet been scheduled for the House Floor, the committee hopes to take the bill to the Floor during the week of October 26, before the expiration of the current short-term authorization expires on October 29. To view a live stream of the markup, please visit the committee website here
. Leaders in both the House and Senate have acknowledged that there will probably be another short-term authorization extension, to provide time for a House and Senate conference committee to reconcile differences in the bills approved in the respective chambers.
The STRR Act assumes baseline funding as projected by the Congressional Budget Office over six years, totaling $325 billion over the six-year authorization. Based on a preliminary analysis of the bill, beginning in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, funding for public transportation programs would be set at $10.898 billion, up about $209 million over current funding. Programs funded through the Mass Transit Account are authorized at a level of $8.724 billion in FY 2016, growing to $9.618 billion by FY2021. Like its Senate counterpart, the STRR Act only guarantees funding of the first three years, meaning Congress would need to act to additionally fund the final three years, should they choose to. The bill does not include a finance title, which leaves the House Committee on Ways and Means to identify “pay-fors” to fund the STRR Act.
The bill essentially provides flat funding or cost-of-living increases in out years for most existing programs, including planning, urban and rural formula programs, seniors and individuals with disabilities, and the bus formula program. The bill would create a new bus discretionary program, funded at $90 million in FY 2016 and $200 million annually in subsequent fiscal years. It provides an increase of $32 million in FY 2016 for the state of good repair program, and modest increases in the out years. The bill cuts funding for capital investment grants – new starts – by $135 million in FY 2016, and it includes language requiring a 50 percent local match on new starts projects. It also contains language, almost identical to language in the Senate-passed DRIVE Act, increasing domestic content under current Buy-America law from 60 percent to 65 percent after two years, and to 70 percent in the fifth year of the bill. A more detailed analysis will be provided in a Legislative Alert early next week. To view the statutory bill language in its entirety, please visit here
The Senate passed a long-term surface transportation authorization, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, shortly before both chambers departed for August recess. For more information on the DRIVE Act, please view our previous Legislative Alert here