Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a short-term extension of the highway spending bill that authorizes Congress to collect the federal gas tax. The measure is an eighth extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) that was expired in 2009.
The Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate have offered vastly different versions of bills to replace SAFETEA-LU. Transportation advocates want to see the the current legislation extended before it expires September 30 to eliminate chances that the U.S. Department of Transportation might be shut down in a repeat of the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration last month. The budget impasse occurred when a normally routine extension of the agency's spending authorization became a bargaining chip in the political scuffle over raising the federal debt ceiling. Many transportation supporters fear the gas tax could provide the next standoff between Democrats and Republican in Congress.