Tick-tock goes the funding clock

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By Thursday, June 30, Congressional conferees either will reach a compromise on a long-term transportation funding bill or will approve its eighth funding extension.

Conferees reportedly reached a tentative funding compromise of $286.5 billion June 24, according to published reports. Scott McClellan, White House press spokesman, was asked if President Bush would veto that amount, which is $2.5 billion more than the maximum Bush said he would sign for 2004-09 funding.

“I don’t believe Congress is going to send us a piece of legislation that will need a presidential veto because there’s been good progress being made,” McClellan said, according to a press conference transcript.

Also on June 24, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta stated that he had just received news that indicated a compromise was near after nearly two years of delays. The last short-term funding extension expires June 30.

“That would be encouraging because the president is tired of waiting,” Mineta said.

On June 9, U.S. Rep. Don Young, chairman of the conference committee charged with the duty of reaching a compromise, said that no reason exists to prevent conferees from approving long-term transportation funding.

“There must be no more extensions,” said the Alaska Republican, who also chairs the House Transportation Committee.

On June 20, Senate conferees proposed a compromise five-year, $290 billion overall funding that House conferees rejected June 22, but conferees are meeting regularly in hope of reaching agreement, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

The House version of the funding, passed in March, included a mandatory diesel fuel surcharge. The Senate version, passed in may, did not include it.