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House to Vote on 9th Transpo Extension Just as Time and Money Run Out

Reps. John Mica, Dave Camp, and John Duncan have formally introduced a bill that would extend federal transportation programs until June 30, without any changes to funding, policy, or gas taxes. It is officially known as H.R. 4239.

The 90-day extension would be the ninth passed since the last long-term transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, expired in September 2009. The House passed the eighth extension of SAFETEA-LU in September 2011 by an unrecorded voice vote. No date has been set for debate or floor votes, but the extension does get a mention in Majority Leader Eric Cantor's schedule for next week.

Mica's proposal was introduced just one day after his Democratic counterpart on the Tranpsortation & Infrastructure Committee, Nick Rahall, introduced the Senate's two-year bill in the House as H.R. 14. House Republicans have justified their opposition to the Senate bill by claiming they still prefer a five-year reauthorization, but the have not yet found a way to pay for it -- the gas tax alone will not be able to cover five years of transportation funding at current levels.

In fact, Politico reported this morning that the Congressional Budget Office predicts the Highway Trust Fund's balance will hit zero sometime in the summer of 2013 -- which is even before the Senate bill expires. The Senate does not need to change their bill to accommodate the new estimate (they knew this would happen and built a cushion into the bill for just that purpose), but further extensions will only make it harder to stretch the trust fund to cover costs.

With both houses needing to raise new money for underfunded transportation programs, the question arises: What would Reagan do?

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