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SAFETEA-LU: Frequently Asked Questions
These WIll be Updated Often As More Information is Available
On September 30, the current federal surface transportation law SAFETEA-LU was set to expire. In order to prevent a halt in transportation spending and allow time for the Senate to debate a 3-month extension for SAFETEA-LU, Congress added a one-month continuing resolution (CR) to a last minute legislative branch appropriations bill. Unfortunately, the CR did not address the requirement under SAFETEA-LU for states to send back $8.7B under the latest rescission notice. The League of American Bicyclists along with its America Bikes Coalition partners will use the next month to continue meeting with Congressional Members to urge them to move quickly in passing the next transportation bill. See FAQ section for additional update
Did our current six-year transportation bill (SAFETEA) expire at midnight on September 30?
Yes it did. Though it expired, the spending and programs of SAFETEA will now be continued for one month.
Why September 30th?
The start of the new fiscal year for all government agencies is October 1st. Every year, the House and Senate have to pass a slew of yearly spending bills that fund all government agencies before the previous bills expire on September 30th. This includes the Department of Transportation in addition to all other government agencies. If new bills are not passed, the government can shut down, as it did in 1994.
The House recently passed a 3-month extension and the Senate wanted an 18-month extension of the transportation bill. How did we end up with just one month?
Last Friday the House passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA. The Senate needed to pass an extension of their own and then reconcile the length of their version with the Houseís version in a conference committee before sending it to the President. The Senate failed to pass an extension of 3, 18 or any other substantial number of months before reaching the deadline.
To keep government from shutting down when old spending bills expire on September 30th, lawmakers have built in a backstop known as a Continuing Resolution (CR). The House and Senate included a one month extension of funding for the transportation bill in the CR. The House passed their CR bill on Friday as part of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, and the Senate passed theirs last night and sent it to President Obama.
What does this one-month emergency CR extension do to the possibility of a longer extension of SAFETEA?
This stopgap Continuing Resolution (CR) buys just one month of time for the Senate to act on their version of a longer extension. The House passed a 3-month extension last week. The Senate can pass a longer-term extension this month, and then try to reconcile the length of theirs with the House version. As of today, they have 31 days left to work on this.
But, starting on October 1, 2009, $8.7 billion in transportation money is being taken away from the states. This will give the Senate strong urgency to work out a deal as soon as possible. State DOTs, local politicians, lobbyists and others will be putting heavy pressure on Senators to work out a deal immediately to keep their states from losing money.
Does this mean they can still pass a longer extension soon?
They can pass a longer extension anytime this month. The House passed a 3-month extension, so the decision is now up to the Senate on how to proceed, and how long of an extension to pass. The ball is in their court.
It is virtually guaranteed that a full transportation bill will not pass during October, though itís legally possible. Chairman Oberstar in the House will continue negotiating with the Senate to pass his 3-month extension, while continuing to work on his full transportation bill (STAA). He wants to pass a full, six-year bill before the end of the year. (Though if a 3-month extension is enacted this month, it would carry us to January 31st instead of December 31st.)
What are the chances itíll be 18 months like the Senate originally preferred?
Though the Senate maintained their preference for an 18-month extension, in line with the administration, theyíve shown willingness to negotiate. There was an attempt to pass a 3-month extension in the last two days, which failed to garner enough support to reach a vote. Itís entirely possible the Senate could pass a 3-month extension in the coming days or weeks.
If they pass an extension longer than 3 months, then the House and Senate will reconcile their versions before sending it to the President. They have until October 31st to act, though states will be losing transportation money until they do.