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What to Expect from Congress for the Remainder of the Year

 

Congress returned from August recess with nine legislative days to go until the government shuts down at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Therefore, both chambers must work on a funding bill that would fund the government beyond Sept. 30. House appropriators have drafted a bill to extend funding past October 1. House and Senate Democratic leaders have said they want Congress to pass a funding bill that would fund the government at least through Nov. 21 in order to allow appropriators enough time to work on the fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills. The spending bill is likely to serve as a vehicle to attach the tax extenders package which will likely include a 2 year retroactive renewal of the biodiesel blender’s tax credit along with a prospective renewal of the oil spill liability tax (OSLT).

Additionally, the Senate is focused on how to fund a five-year surface transportation bill known as the “America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) of 2019” that was passed last month through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon meet with lawmakers to discuss how to finance the bill, but also stated that he won’t move a finance title for the highway bill this fall unless shows his support for a plan to raise more revenue for transportation programs. Grassley told reporters that he isn’t “anxious to bring up a tax bill that the leader is not going to take up on the floor so I say if you can set up a meeting with me, you, and the leader, then we’ll find out what he can do and I’m going to act accordingly.”

Grassley said that he is not eager to raise the gas tax but wants to look at options proposed by EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), such as a tax on electric vehicles (EVs). Grassley said that he wants people to pay for “every mile they use the highway regardless of whether you have an electric car or whether you have a gas car.” Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Carper, ranking member of the EPW Committee, stated that all options are on the table for funding the highway bill. Sen. Carper has said that he has met and will continue to meet with Sen. Grassley on ways to finance the highway bill.

Of particular concern for PMAA, Section 1401 of the highway bill would create a $1 billion grant program for states to deploy electric vehicle, hydrogen and natural gas vehicle charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors. PMAA is concerned that the grant program does not provide for the equitable distribution of funds or account for other investment required for infrastructure changes that may be needed to accommodate EV and alternative fueling equipment such as upgrades to site utilities, adding land, and expanding paved areas and operating costs. In addition, the focus on alternative fuel corridors will result in a preference for grants to companies that have multiple sites distributed along major transportation routes. As with other grants for alternative fuels, small to medium c-stores will be placed at a competitive disadvantage.







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