Congress is getting closer to providing operating funds for the Department of Transportation for the next fiscal year.
Last week the Senate passed its $49.5 billion DOT appropriations bill, which now goes to conference with the bill passed by the House last June. The Senate bill, which passed 95-0, includes a $1.6 billion increase over this year's funding. The increase would cover, among other things, more money for truck safety.
A major trucking issue will have to be resolved in conference. The House appropriations bill contains a provision by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, that would shut off all money to the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety unless the safety program gets new management.
Wolf has said he wants OMCHS to be moved to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both the House and the Senate have rejected that approach. They are working on legislation that would move the safety office into a new National Motor Carrier Administration at DOT. Wolf has not yet stated his position on those proposals.
Another issue on the table is a proposed change in the way highway funds are distributed. The House bill uses allocation formulas from TEA 21 to distribute money to the states, but the Senate bill would send more money directly to the states, rather than through DOT.