AED Battles Highway Bill Provisions

Wed April 14, 2004 - National Edition

Late last year, the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee approved a six-year highway and transit bill called the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) (S. 1072).

According to AED, buried deep in the legislation was a provision that would have made it harder for states and contractors to buy equipment for federal highway projects.

Specifically, Sec. 1406 would have required “states and other entities” doing highway work to justify, in writing, their decision to purchase rather than rent most types of equipment. However, those choosing to rent equipment would not have been required to justify their decisions, even though renting may cost more.

Senate Scales Back Rental Preference Provision

Pressure from AED and other construction industry groups led to the provision being scaled back when SAFETEA was considered on the Senate floor. As passed by the Senate in February, SAFETEA Sec. 1406 would apply only to states wishing to buy equipment. According to AED, while the modification was an important victory and a good first step, the battle is far from over.

In the House of Representatives, AED has been mounting an intense lobbying campaign to educate House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee leaders about the idea that, although a good option for many in the industry, rental can be a less preferable way to acquire equipment than purchasing or leasing.

As part of that effort, AED coordinated a letter last month to T&I Committee members, urging that the rental preference language not be included in either the Committee’s highway bill or in the final conference report. Organizations that joined AED on the letter included the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; American Road and Transportation Builders Association; Associated General Contractors of America; Association of Equipment Manufacturers; National Asphalt Pavement Association; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association; National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association; and the National Utility Contractors Association.

These efforts seem to be having the desired affect. On Apr. 2, the T&I Committee gave approval to a $275 billion highway and transit bill — the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU) (H.R. 3550) that did not include rental preference language.

The next step in the process is a House-Senate conference to work out a compromise between the two versions of the highway and transit bill. AED said it will be working to urge conferees from the House T&I and Senate EPW Committees that rental preferences not be included in the final legislation.

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