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House Passes Jobs Bill, Highway Funding Extension

Congress plans to take several steps over the next few weeks to keep highway funding flowing to states and to prop up the economy through infrastructure investment. On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the House of Representatives approved language attached to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that will extend the highway bill through Feb. 28, 2010.

Also last Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 2847, the “Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010,” which provides $75 billion from the General Fund for infrastructure projects and other job creation programs, including $27.5 billion for highways and $8.4 billion for transit. Highway projects will be funded at 100 percent federal money instead of the traditional 80-20 federal-local split. H.R. 2847 also incorporates the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2009, which extends the core highway, highway safety and transit programs through Sept. 30, 2010, at $53.3 billion. The bill also includes provisions to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

It restores $19.5 billion in interest payments foregone on the fund’s previous cash balances, and lifts the ban on the HTF receiving interest payments in the future. This will increase the fund’s balance by an estimated $500 million to $1 billion annually, in the near-term. Finally, the bill calls for the General Fund, rather than the Highway Trust Fund, to support long-standing fuel tax exemptions, such as those provided to state and local governments. This provision will increase HTF balances by about $1.7 billion annually, for a total of $9.8 billion over six years. The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Senate until after the first of the year, which necessitated the extension through Feb. 28.

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