On Friday, the House passed H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) voted for the measure.
The conference report extends the 3.4 percent student loan interest rate for another year, reauthorizes funding for highway and transit programs through September 30, 2014, and reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program for five years.
"Education has to be a top national priority, and maintaining the reduced student loan interest rate is a critical factor in making higher education a reality for our students. I am pleased that preserving the 3.4 percent rate for another year will benefit over 16,000 students in Hawaii, an investment in our state's future.
"It is unfortunate that Republican brinkmanship has again brought us to the edge of disaster before they agreed to this compromise. The months of naysaying that preceded this deal did little more than raise the anxiety levels of our students, our transportation industry, and all of our workers who are committed to ensuring our nation's roads and highways are safe for our families. "
Without this bill, funding for our nation's highway projects would have expired on Saturday. On July 1, the reduced student loan interest rate would have expired and doubled to 6.8 percent. That would have affected 16,681 student borrowers in Hawaii.
Fortunately, the measure does not include controversial provisions on the Keystone pipeline and regulations on coal ash.
H.R. 4348 is paid for by extending highway-related taxes through September 30, 2016, adjusting how employers fund employee pensions, and limiting the duration of some student loans to 150 percent of the normal time it takes to complete a postsecondary degree. This provision will only apply to students who first take out a loan on or after July 1, 2013.
The conference report passed by a vote of 373 to 52 and the Senate quickly approved the measure. It now heads to the President's desk for his signature.