Friday, March 19, 2010

One Extension Done, Others Still in Play

Earlier this week, Pres. Obama signed HR 2847, the "HIRE Act," into law. This legislation extends SAFETEA-LU highway and transit authorizations through December 31, 2010, making sure that about $20 billion is made available to cover existing appropriations (and anticipated appropriations for the first quarter of FY 2011). It also continues the increased federal share of Medicaid costs that were first established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Back payment to US DOT employees affected by last month's short-term furlough during the lapse in authorizations remain up in the air. The House has passed a couple of measures to address this question, but Senate action has not yet occurred. The House attached the latest such back pay provision to HR 4851, the "Continuing Extensions Act," which otherwise addresses lapsing unemployment, COBRA and other provisions.

Returning to the HIRE Act, there was a bit of a conniption over how to treat the FHWA accounts that had been used to fund some high-dollar highway projects under SAFETEA-LU. Basically, the question was whether these accounts still need extension, even after those Congressionally designated projects had been funded. But in the urgent need to do something, that extension occurred.... Now, Congress is trying to set things straight, having attached a bit of correcting language to another bill, HR 4853, the FAA Extension Act (yes, the federal aviation program also has expired and needs reauthorization), which it passed and sent on to the Senate this week.

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