Special Sessions Tackle State Infrastructure Needs


ph1[1]With summer upon us, many state legislators are finding themselves stuck in “summer school” in order to hammer out bills to address growing infrastructure needs.

With the exception of a few states who meet year-round, most state legislatures will convene anywhere from 60 to 100 days.  Unfortunately, this year many of states with short sessions now find themselves working well into the summer months in order to reach common ground on bills that will fund surface transportation in their state.

Whether is sticking it out at the state house beyond their required adjournment date or being called back by the Governor until a deal is reached, a healthy handful of states find themselves working tirelessly to find a solution. Our summer watch list includes: California, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, South Carolina, and Washington.

  • California’s Governor Jerry Brown called for a two week special session to focus on the state’s investment in transportation infrastructure. With the state facing a number of competing proposals—and needs—the hopes is to develop a long-term and sustainable funding solution. From high speed rail to road repair, Governor Brown is looking to the legislature to deliver a package that will improve public safety and secure the state’s economic future.
  • Illinois finds itself in an extended regular session as it moves to reach a balanced budget that includes transportation and water infrastructure funding. At present the legislature is delivering budget bills in piecemeal fashion as it finds itself at an impasse with the Governor’s Office.  The 2016 fiscal year begins on July 1, 2015 and without a budget in place Governor Rauner has indicated program cuts would begin to take effect. Up to now, it is expected the Department of Transportation will not be affected.
  • Maine, like Illinois, finds itself in the middle of a larger budget battle. The most recent proposal was met with a number of vetoes (and later veto overrides) including the separate highway and transportation budget.  Governor LePage removed $2.9 million in line items from the state’s transportation that will require additional votes in the state Senate to be restored.  This after a number of promising bills that would have established study commissions to assess the overall condition of the state’s surface transportation systems did not advance.
  • Oregon with its Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) program set to start July 1, 2015 the legislature is still in discussions with Governor Kate Brown over funding $200 million in roads repairs through a 4-cent gas tax increase. With rumors a deal is near we expect that Oregon legislators will be among the first to head back their home districts.
  • South Carolina’s legislature burned the midnight oil in Columbia and reached that will allocate an additional $216 million to fund county road maintenance and repairs beyond the $71 million already distributed among counties from their portion of the state gas tax.  The transportation budget also includes the potential for $500 million in state bonds for large highway projects.  The bill has been sent to Governor Nikki Haley for signature as legislators prepare to return home for the summer.
  • Washington State’s legislature has already push through and received Governor Inslee’s approval on the operating portion of the Department of Transportation’s budget. The legislature nearing the end of its second special session, has again stalled when it comes to reaching agreement on a funding measure. While there was consensus for the package that included a 11.7 cent per gallon gas tax increase during the regular session, discussion that would lead to revenue generation for highways, bridges, and ferries, have been put in a holding pattern behind larger budget negotiations.

Now that the heat of summer has arrived the heat is on to get these lawmakers back home. As they look to neighboring states that have already taken action (and adjourned until next year), we fully expect legislators in these states will also make strides when it comes to meeting their infrastructure needs.  We will watch as they work furiously to ensure that there is no disruption in state operations come July 1 and know they will diligently make necessary investments in maintaining and improving the condition of infrastructure in their state.

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