WASHINGTON – House members and senators this morning began reconciling their differences over sweeping legislation that would provide billions of dollars in funding to repair the nation’s transportation waterways.
Western Pennsylvania industries that move goods by barge have long been awaiting passage of the legislation, which includes a measure allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to resume work on the Lower Monongahela River’s crumbling locks and dams.
Both chambers have passed funding legislation, but their bills differ. The Senate version would have the government pay the full cost of completing the Lower Mon project, while the House version provides three-quarters of the necessary funding and calls for the rest to come from a diesel tax that barge operators pay to the Water Resources Trust Fund.
The legislation funds water infrastructure projects that reduce flood damage, protect shorelines, provide disaster response, keep dams safe, dredge rivers, improve navigation and more.
There is widespread agreement that those projects should be funded but the House and Senate differ on how to fund them and how to keep from opening the floodgates to the kinds of pork-barrel projects that the 2010 earmark ban was meant to eliminate.
Last time a water resources bill was passed was 2007.
Conference committee members are optimistic they will reach a compromise.
“We all care about reform,” said Bill Shuster, R-Blair, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “There are areas in our bills where we differ … but I am confident at the end of the day we can resolve our differences and achieve a successful conference report.”
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.