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Senators to offer six-year highway bill

Senators to offer six-year highway bill

A bipartisan pair of senators is planning to introduce a six-year transportation funding measure as lawmakers are scrambling to prevent an interruption in the nation's infrastructure spending next month. 

The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire on July 31, and it has been a decade since Congress has passed an extension that last longer than two years. 

Sens. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Citizens' Climate Lobby - Biden floats infrastructure, tax concessions to GOP Overnight Defense: Pentagon pitches 5B budget | Kamala Harris addresses US Naval Academy graduates Pentagon pitches 5B budget with cuts to older weapons MORE (R-Okla.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday that they are planning to unveil "a six-year highway reauthorization bill titled the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act)" on Tuesday morning.

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The introduction of the measure comes as lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to close a gap in transportation funding that is estimated to be about $16 billion per year. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually. 

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will take about $100 billion to close the gap long enough to pay for a six-year transportation funding bill, which is the length being sought by the Obama administration and transportation supporters. 

The federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents-per-gallon, has been the traditional source of transportation funding since its inception in the 1930's. But the tax has not been increased since 1993, and improvements in auto fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power. 

Transportation supporters have pushed for a gas tax increase to pay for a long-term transportation bill, but Republican lawmakers have ruled out such a hike

Lawmakers have turned to other areas of the federal budget to close the transportation funding gap in recent years, resulting in temporary fixes such as a two-month patch that was approved by lawmakers last month. 

Transportation advocates have complained that temporary extensions are preventing state and local governments from completing long-term infrastructure projects that are badly need.  

Inhofe and Boxer have said that they are deferring to the Senate Finance Committee on how the long-sought multi-year transportation bill should be financed, but the duo said they are ready to roll out the policy language that will accompany the next round of federal infrastructure funding on Tuesday. 

Inhofe and Boxer are scheduled to be joined at the press conference on Tuesday by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.). 

— This story was corrected on July 20 to reflect that the Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the transportation pay-fors.