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Oberstar making plans for huge highway bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Jim Oberstar, the dean of the Minnesota delegation who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to unveil draft legislation for a projected $450 billion highway bill after Congress reconvenes after its Memorial Day recess.

The goal will be to move the mammoth spending bill, which is intended to fund road and rail projects over the next six years, to President Obama’s desk by the end of September, according to The Hill.

The Hill reports that the legislation will “also serve as an early challenge to Democrats on earmarks. President Obama asked Congress to refrain from attaching earmarks to the stimulus bill, but was then criticized for signing an omnibus spending bill into law that included thousands of earmarks.”

The 2005 transportation bill, which cost $286 billion, was notorious for questionable earmarks that included Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.”

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So far, lawmakers have submitted $136.3 billion in earmarked requests for this year’s bill. Only a fraction of these requests, however, will ultimately be granted.

But even if the earmark situation is smoothed over, another major challenge looms: digging up enough dough to fund such a massive piece of legislation.

“In the past, much of the transit spending was funded by the federal gas tax, which is projected to generate less federal revenue as Americans drive less miles and adopt more fuel-efficient cars,” the Hill reports.