WASHINGTON — House leaders unveiled a scaled-back, $151-billion mass transit and highway bill Thursday that abandons a controversial proposal to raise the federal gasoline tax by a nickel a gallon.
The six-year package calls for spending $119 billion on highways and bridges and $32 billion on rail and bus systems. The legislation would pay for the programs by extending a 2.5-cent surcharge on the gasoline tax, enacted last fall, for an additional three years--through 1999. It also anticipates reducing the $11.4-billion balance in the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by gasoline tax receipts.
The federal gasoline tax rose to 14 cents a gallon at the beginning of the year.
The legislation also cuts $1.8 billion from the $6.8 billion that House leaders earlier had earmarked for special "demonstration projects" for individual congressional districts. The projects, criticized as "pure pork" by some legislators, had prompted veto threats from the Bush Administration. The Administration also had strongly opposed the gas tax hike.
Current transportation aid programs, which had seen only minor changes in the last 35 years, expired on Sept. 30. However, states are continuing to spend money already allocated to them under the old programs.