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Washington Retail Insight

House Hopes Second Transportation Bill Will Speed Up Long-Term Solution

By J. Craig Shearman
Washington Retail Insight
April 20, 2012

The House this week approved its second short-term federal transportation spending bill in less than a month in a move intended to speed up action on a long-term measure that could ease highway congestion that snarls retail industry supply chains.

H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 Part II, passed 293-127, on Wednesday and would continue transportation funding at current levels through September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. It follows a bill signed into law late last month that avoided a March 31 shutdown of transportation projects by extending funding through June 30.

The new measure needs approval by the Senate, but sets the stage for negotiations between the two chambers over the two-year, $109 billion plan approved earlier this year by the Senate and a five-year, $260 billion plan stalled in the House. At this point, published reports say House leaders are expected to set aside their version and agree to most of the Senate bill. The last full-scale transportation bill expired in 2009, with funding continued under a series of short-term bills since then.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said the new bill “will help move the process forward in working to resolve differences with the Senate.”

“The fact that the House voted to take a step forward on a surface transportation bill is encouraging,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said. Boxer said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had committed to appoint negotiators as soon as possible and urged the House to do the same “so that Congress can complete its work and get a bill to the President’s desk.”

NRF has been a leading advocate of long-term transportation funding, calling for a national freight policy and telling lawmakers last month “too many jobs are at stake to fund transportation a few weeks or months at a time.” Retailers are among the nation’s largest shippers and rely on an efficient transportation system to move merchandise to their stores. A multi-year transportation bill at appropriate levels would ease the backlog of pending highway projects across the nation and help retailers and other businesses make long-term plans.

© 2012 National Retail Federation

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