Bipartisan Accord on Highways and College Loans Has Us Longing for More

Posted on July 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Turner GPA Staff

With its penchant for taking negotiations right down to the wire, Congress on Friday reached a compromise deal to reauthorize three federal programs—student loans, highways, and flood insurance.

As the Fourth of July recess neared, federal lawmakers, in an unusual display of cooperation for this Congress, were able to put aside their differences and approved legislation that avoided staggering loan increases for poor and middle-class college students, saved highway and transportation construction jobs and extended flood insurance protection to American homeowners and businesses. The Surface Transportation Act of 2012 now awaits the president’s signature.

Here are the bill’s key numbers:

  • 7.4 million college students were spared from having the interest rates on their federally subsidized Stafford loans double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent
  • 5.6 million households and businesses will remain covered by federal flood insurance programs
  • 1.8 million jobs, mostly highway and transit construction jobs, threatened by the cut-off of federal funding for transportation projects were saved
  • 1 million new jobs will be created by using federal loan guarantees to leverage private sector investment to build and repair roads, bridges, rail and other infrastructure projects

To reach an agreement both the Republicans and Democrats gave up on some of their demands, including the GOP’s push to tie passage of the bill to the approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Likewise, the Republican’s were able to wring environmental protection concessions from the Democrats, including the relaxing of rules pertaining to environmental impact studies required for federally financed highway projects.

The bill would spend more than $100 billion on highway, mass transit and other transportation projects over the next two years, but fails to grapple with the question of how to pay for transportation projects after that. The federal 18.4 cent-a-gallon gas tax and the 24.4 cent-a-gallon diesel tax has fallen woefully short for years in paying for highway and transit programs and have forced lawmakers to dip into the national treasury to the tune of $34.5 billion since 2008 to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. In failing to find a long-term solution to this serious funding issue – such as raising the gas and diesel tax, which haven’t been increased since 1993 – lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have simply pushed the problem down the road.

Likewise, Congress cobbled together short-term reprieves for student loans – a one-year deal – and for the federal flood insurance program, which took on massive debt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Both programs are in need of serious reforms that lawmakers simply didn’t address.

That didn’t stop a torrent of Internet boasting by members of Congress seeking to take a share of the credit, even if they failed to mention that little has been done over the last  two years to put Americans back to work.

Still, we take heart in the remarks of one senator made shortly after Congress approved the highway and college loan legislation: “We have a bill that is supported by conservatives and liberals, progressives and moderates. I think this is a great day.”

We can only hope that Congress will sometime in the not too distant future finally get around to giving us more of these “great days” that all Americans fully deserve and expect.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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One Response to “Bipartisan Accord on Highways and College Loans Has Us Longing for More”

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ahh Karen, I could not agree more, so little has been done to make jobs here, with so many needs and so many opportunities. Infrastructure, like job creation itself, is an investment of American dollars in the American people- to greater prosperity for our families, security for our children. The results enhance the value and functionality of the man-made environment, economic down turns have a long tradition as eras of growth in the physical environment- the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge come easily to mind. Now our needs are great for modern passenger rail, improved urban transit including monorail and light rail. Even in the desperation for jobs we cannot afford to foster an huge increase in climate changing emissions- this summers heat, Dericho storms, drought show that warming the atmosphere will continue to have deep and potentially catastrophic effects–we must proceed with due care to shift our energy consumption more and more into environmentally benign technologies…Wonderful article here, so many things with which I wholeheartedly agree…HDM


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