H.R. 4239: Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

H.R. 4239

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

Sponsor
Rep. John Mica

Date
March 26, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, March 26, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 4239 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 4239 was introduced by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) on March 22, 2012, and was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which took no official action.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4239 would extend the authority to appropriate funds from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for federal highway and surface transportation programs for 90 days, through June 30, 2012 (three-fourths of FY 2012). Under current law, surface transportation spending authority is set to expire on March 31, 2012. The current highway program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expired at the end of FY 2009 and has since been authorized by a series of short-term extensions. The most recent extension (H.R. 2887) was approved in the House by voice vote in September 2011 and is set to expire on March 31, 2012.

 

Surface Transportation Reauthorization 

 

H.R. 4239 would extend the authority to appropriate funds from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for federal highway and surface transportation programs through June 30, 2012 (three-fourths of FY 2012).  Current authority to appropriate funds from the HTF under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was most recently extended in September 2011 by H.R. 2887, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011, and is set to expire on March 31, 2012. H.R. 2887 was approved in the House on September 13, 2011, by voice vote. H.R. 2887 provided six months of surface transportation funding and accordingly set FY 2012 HTF transportation spending limits at half of the 2011 spending levels.  Funding for 2011 was $42.46 billion for highway funding and $10.33 billion for mass transit funding. H.R. 4239 would set the total obligation limitation levels for transportation funding at three-fourths of the total amount authorized for FY 2011. This would provide funding for the first nine months of FY 2012 at the same level as FY 2011. The funding level authorized by the bill is identical to CBO’s current baseline projection, thus enacting H.R. 4239 would not provide budget authority above amounts assumed under current law.

 

Federal-Aid Highway ProgramsH.R. 4239 would authorize an obligation limit for highway program spending from the HTF from October 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, at three-fourths of the total amount authorized from the HTF in FY 2011 ($42.46 billion). The amounts authorized to be appropriated would be calculated by accounting for any rescission or cancellation of funds or contract authority in FY 2011, including in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. In addition, the bill would extend the authority to collect highway related taxes, including the federal gasoline tax, through June 30, 2012.

 

Extension of Highway Safety Programs:  H.R. 4239 would provide spending authority for highway safety programs carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for three-fourths of FY 2012, from October 2011 through June 2012, including:

  • $176 million for Chapter 4 Highway Safety Programs;
  • $81 million for Highway Safety Research and Development;
  • $18 million for Occupant Protection Incentive Grants;
  • $36 million for Safety Belt Performance Grants;
  • $25 million for State Traffic Safety Information System Improvements;
  • $104 million for the Alcohol-Impaired Driving Counter-Measures Incentive Grant Program;
  • $3 million for the National Driver Register;
  • $21 million for the High Visibility Enforcement Program;
  • $5 million for Motorcycle Safety;
  • $5 million for Child Safety and Booster Seat Safety Incentive Grants; and
  • $18 million for Administrative Expenses.

 

H.R. 4239 would also authorize $342 million for three-fourths of FY 2012 for programs carried out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including $159 million for Motor Carrier Safety Grants and $183 million for Administrative Expenses.

 

Public Transportation Programs: H.R. 4239 sets the obligation limit for mass transit program spending authority from the HTF at $7.7 billion from October 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. The bill would authorize $6.3 billion for Formula and Bus Grants and $1.4 billion for Capital Investment Grants. 

Background

The HTF was established in 1956 for the purpose of funding the construction of an interstate highway system. The account is administered by the Federal Highway Administration, within the Department of Transportation, and distributes gasoline tax revenues annually to states for highway projects. The vast majority of total receipts for the HTF come from the federal highway users excise tax (the remainder comes from truck-related taxes such as truck and trailer sales, truck tires and heavy-vehicle use taxes).  Currently the 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax is distributed with one-tenth of one cent going to the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund and the rest to the Highway Trust Fund’s two accounts: 2.85 cents per gallon to fund the mass transit account and 15.44 cents per gallon to fund the highway account. The current highway program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expired at the end of FY 2009 and has since been authorized by a series of short-term extensions. The most recent extension (H.R. 2887) was approved in September 2011 and is set to expire on March 31, 2012.

 

In recent years, revenues to the HTF have not kept pace with the outlays, dropping off sharply in 2008 when fuel hit record-high prices and consumption dropped. According to CRS, in 2008, $8 billion was transferred from the general fund to the HTF to fill a funding shortfall.  In FY 2009 and FY 2010, the HTF received transfers of $7 billion and $20 billion, respectively, to keep the trust fund solvent. 

Cost

A CBO score for H.R. 4239 was unavailable as of press time.