October 18, 2010 9:30 AM, EDT

Movement on Highway Bill Possible, Sen. Kyl Tells Trucking Industry

Steven Purcell for TT

PHOENIX — Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told American Trucking Associations members that there likely would be movement on a short-term extension of the highway bill in Congress’ upcoming lame-duck session, with a major push to complete a bill early next year.

“My sense is. . . we’re looking at some kind of short-term extension,” Kyl, the second-highest ranking Republican Senator, said Sunday at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition Advocacy Luncheon here.

But the main stumbling block for a bill remains funding, he said.

While House Transportation Chairman James Oberstar has suggested a 15-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax, “most of the political people haven't been brave enough to back that,” Kyl said.

A spokesman for Oberstar (D-Minn.) told Transport Topics that while the chairman “has not been shy” about his support for the fuel tax, Oberstar “is not proposing such a tax increase.”

Kyl said that he and other Republicans favored redirecting current fuel tax revenue away from non-highway projects and back to roads, from where the user fees are derived.

Beyond how to pay for it, electoral politics also are likely to shape how and when a bill is put forward, Kyl said.

Regardless of the outcomes of the upcoming midterm elections, he said that if Congress did not act early in the next legislative session, the opportunity to do a bill could be lost for at least another two years.

“I do think it is important to get this done in the next 10 months or so of the next Congress  otherwise it will become a victim of the reelection cycle,” Kyl said, referring to the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.