Funding Levels for 2007 and SSRS Issues Deferred to the 110th Congress
The 109th Congress is now history. It adjourned without passing appropriations bills that fund nine major federal agencies and departments including the U.S. Department of Transportation. Instead, it passed another Continuing Resolution (CR), House Joint Resolution 102 (HJR102) that continues to fund these agencies at the FY 2006 levels through February 15, 2007. It is a “clean” and short CR with no exceptions.
This means that the MCSAP grant program will continue to be funded at the annual rate of $188 million instead of increasing to $197 million, the 2007 level specified in SAFETEA-LU. Other motor carrier safety grant programs including Safety Data Improvement and CDLIS modernization will also be funded at 2006 levels instead of bumping up to the 2007 authorized level. Under the reduced annual rate, FMCSA could lose $27 million in annual funding that would otherwise be available for state grant and FMCSA programs.
Since the CR was essentially the same as the one passed last September, it did not contain language extending the Single State Registration System (SSRS) to January 1, 2008. Appropriations Committee staff in both the House and Senate were sympathetic to the need for the extension, but the outgoing Congressional leadership were unwilling to pass anything other than a basically “clean” CR. Many other issues requiring “fixes” also were not addressed. The new Congress will have to deal with the 2007 funding issues as one of the first items of business when it convenes in January. Indications are that the incoming Congressional leadership plan to adopt a long term CR for the balance of the 2007 fiscal year with some adjustments. The key issue will be the scope of adjustments allowed and whether they could include the SSRS extension. Appropriations Committee staff in both the House and Senate have indicated this issue is still on their radar screen and will be considering it as the long term CR is drafted.
Given the scenario of a long term CR, CVSA and NARUC will be regrouping to consider SSRS extension options and possible other issues relating to the work of the UCR Board. Due to the uncertainty of when the new UCR plan will be up and running (probably not before mid-2007), a number of SSRS states, including those that have yet to enact enabling legislation for the new UCR, have said they still would prefer the one year extension to January of 2008 to avoid substantial revenue losses for 2007. These SSRS states indicate they have not yet sent out 2007 SSRS renewal notices, but are ready to do so, should the new Congress pass the extension early in 2007.
The SAFETEA-LU corrections bill might still be an option, but passage of such a bill is more uncertain than that of the long term CR. NARUC’s Chris Mele will be attending the upcoming UCR Board meeting in Phoenix on January 15 to discuss these legislative matters.
Beyond the SSRS issue, little is known about other safety and security issues that could be on the agenda of the new Congress. Committee member and subcommittee assignments are just being finalized. Committee staff reorganization is also underway.
We will keep you informed on all of these issues as they develop.