Senate panel passes 6-year highway bill, minus funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has unanimously passed a bill to boost federal spending on highway projects over the next six years, giving states more certainty to plan.

Lawmakers, however, have yet to come up with a way to pay for it.

The federal government relies on an 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to pay for highway projects. But the tax no longer generates enough money to cover federal spending, and lawmakers are reluctant to increase it.

The result has been a series of short-term funding bills. The latest expires at the end of July.

The bill passed Wednesday would increase highway spending by an average of 3 percent a year and give states more flexibility to fund local projects. The bill now awaits a funding mechanism before going to the full Senate.

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