Highway bill pleases business groups, but funding issue will return in 2014
July 9, 2012
Memphis Business Journal
Business groups are pleased that Congress finally passed a long-term highway bill instead of continuing to limp along with short-term extensions.
The legislation, which passed both the House and Senate by lopsided votes, provides federal funding for highway and transit projects for the next 27 months. The bill also prevented interest rates on federal student loans from doubling July 1 and extends the National Flood Insurance Program for five years.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
The highway bill “ends nearly three years’ worth of temporary extensions that have made it increasingly difficult for state and local officials to plan for, fund and execute major new infrastructure projects,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of Associated General Contractors of America.
The bill “should allow construction to finally begin on many long-delayed, yet vital, projects” and “make it easier for a host of long-contemplated projects to move through a regulatory review process that until now was hopelessly inefficient,” he said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have preferred a measure that provided more funding for transportation over a longer period, but was glad Congress at least passed this bill.
“In the near term, this legislation will save thousands of jobs in construction and related industries,” said chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. “In the long term, it will strengthen the nation’s economy and global competitiveness.”
The chamber was pleased the bill consolidated federal programs and streamlined the project approval process.
“The bigger challenge lies ahead: devising a predictable, sustainable and growing source of dedicated, user-fee-based funding to ensure we have adequate resources to maintain the world’s greatest infrastructure system for decades to come,” Donohue said.
“Congress must eventually resolve the funding issue surrounding the Highway Trust Fund or it will again face insolvency in 2014,” said Building America’s Future co-chair Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania.
Housing and banking industries glad Congress extended flood insurance
Home builders and bankers were relieved that Congress reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program through Sept. 30, 2017.
The program had been scheduled to expire July 31.
The five-year reauthorization will “ensure that federally backed flood insurance program operates smoothly and without delay, remains efficient and effective in protecting property owners, and creates more stability in the housing market,” said Barry Rutenberg, a home builder based in Gainesville, Fla., who chairs the National Association of Home Builders .
“The flood program is critically important to policyholders and the U.S. economy,” said Steve Bartlett, president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable. “More than 5.6 million policyholders in 21,000 communities nationwide depend on the National Flood Insurance Program as their main source of protection against property losses that result from flooding.”