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House GOP plans 2-month extension of highway funds

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans introduced a two-month extension of the federal highway and mass transit program Friday, barely two weeks before the government’s authority to finance projects around the country expires.

Republicans from both chambers said they expected Congress to approve the legislation next week.

Lawmakers are scheduled to leave the capital by next Friday for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. Without an extension, officials worry that federal cash infusions to projects around the country would halt just as the summer construction season begins.

Legislators have long wanted to craft a long-term extension of the program but have repeatedly gridlocked over how to pay for it. As a result, Congress has approved a series of short-term extensions — most recently, one enacted last summer that expires June 1.

The bulk of federal road-building money comes from the federal gasoline tax, which has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. Fearing retribution from voters, lawmakers have been leery of raising that tax, even in the face of more fuel efficient vehicles and rising inflation.

Two top House lawmakers — Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — said in a written statement that they want to extend the program through 2015. Financing it through July will provide more time to find a way to do that, they said.

“Doing so will require our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be constructive in working toward a solution,” they said.

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