Manufacturers key-voting $325B House highway bill

Manufacturers key-voting $325B House highway bill
© Greg Nash

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is planning to key-vote a bill to spend up to $325 billion on transportation projects over the next six years that is scheduled to come up for consideration in the House on Thursday. 

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a multiyear transportation funding package that includes three years of guaranteed funding for infrastructure projects. Lawmakers will have the option to authorize the additional three years of road and transit spending at a later date if they can come up with way to pay for it. 

The measure is intended to prevent an interruption in the nation's infrastructure spending that is scheduled to occur on Nov. 20 absent congressional action. 

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The manufacturers' association said Thursday that it would be keeping an eye on how lawmakers in the House vote on the on the highway legislation. 

“The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States representing manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states, urges you to support H.R. 22, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015,” the group wrote in a key-vote alert that was sent to lawmakers on Thursday. 

“The need to update and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure extends far beyond state transportation departments and road builders,” the manufacturers’ association continued. “Funding our roads, bridges and transit systems is a national priority; many states do not have the resources or ability to keep up with the demands of aging infrastructure.” 

The legislation at issue is intended to prevent a bankruptcy in federal transportation spending that has been predicted to occur at the end of this month unless Congress acts to prevent it. 

Budget analysts have projected that the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund will run short by about $16 billion per year without an additional infusion of cash or a drastic cutback in federal transportation spending. 

The traditional source of funding for transportation projects has been the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax. The tax has been stagnant since 1993, however, and it has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses as cars have become more fuel efficient in recent years. 

The gas tax brings in about $34 billion per year, but the federal government currently spends approximately $50 billion annually on road and transit projects. Transportation advocates have said that the current funding level is the minimum that can be spent to maintain the present state of the nation’s infrastructure network. 

However, conservative groups in Washington have argued that federal transportation spending should be cut back to the amount of money that is brought in by the gas tax at the very least. 

The House is expected to hold a final vote on the road funding measure on Thursday afternoon.