New transportation bill to include plan for using domestic energy production to fund highways, bridges, U.S. House Speaker says

GRAIN VALLEY, Missouri , November 9, 2011 () – House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, says domestic energy production could help close the funding gap in the next surface transportation authorization bill. He says Republican leadership plans to introduce its transportation bill in the next couple of weeks. It will include new revenues from oil and gas drilling to pay for highways and bridges.

“There’s a natural link between the two. As we develop new sources of American energy, we’re going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to the market,” Boehner stated on his website on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Lawmakers continue to search for ways to close the gap between what the federal Highway Trust Fund takes in from fuel taxes and other user fees and what the government needs to spend on infrastructure. House leadership estimates the shortfall at $15 billion per year.

OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Laura O’Neill says the concept of new revenues from oil and gas drilling is one of the more interesting ideas to emerge in the debate about funding with the White House opposed to raising fuel taxes.

“I think things are actually starting to move,” O’Neill told Land Line Now. “With Speaker Boehner behind at least one proposal, I think things are going to start to get serious.”

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Chairman John Mica, R-FL, could mark up a draft transportation bill in the next few weeks. Word on Capitol Hill is that the House bill will differ considerably from a proposal currently residing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA.

“I think the House version is going to look something like a longer multiyear bill as opposed to Boxer’s two-year bill,” O’Neill said. She said the House version is likely to consolidate federal programs and loosen the environmental review process for infrastructure projects.

“You’re going to see a lot of streamlining. And overall the theme is going to be cutting spending,” O’Neill said. “All of that and increased revenue on oil and gas drilling, and you’re going to see a picture that’s actually plausible. Is it passable? I don’t know, but at least they’re talking about addressing the shortfall with the Highway Trust Fund and it’s a new source. So we’ll see.”

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