House rolls out six-year reauthorization proposal
“The Stimulus forced states to focus on short-term projects like pavement resurfacing and guard rail replacements,” Hann said. “The long-term certainty provided by a long-term bill empowers states to take on major projects including bridge replacements, highway interchange improvements and investment in our nation’s transit systems. These types of projects will provide jobs for years to come and have the potential to have a real impact on the unemployment rate in the construction industry.”
The proposal authorizes nearly $230 billion throughout six years from the Highway Trust Fund for highway, transit, and highway safety programs. These funding levels match current revenue being deposited into the Highway Trust Fund and comply with House rules that do not permit authorization of more funds than those collected.
House Republicans say that Congress will not support a gas tax increase. They say that the proposal does not raise taxes. Without an increase in revenue, other current options, such as a two-year bill, the Administrations’ proposal, or extending expired law at the current funding levels, all lead to the Highway Trust Fund going broke by 2013.
“The fiscally responsible Committee proposal better leverages our limited resources, reduces the federal bureaucracy, and expedites projects to ensure greater value per dollar,” House T&I Committee Republicans purport.
However, T&I Committee Democrats disagree with Committee Republicans that the bill is fiscally responsible. They’ve dubbed the proposed legislation the “Republican Road to Ruin.”
Dems are saying that although they still have to see many of the legislation’s details, “just based on the funding levels alone, it appears that this bill can best be called the ‘Republican Road to Ruin’ because it would take our Nation in the wrong direction,” U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-W.V.), Democratic Ranking Member on the full Committee, told HuntingtonNews.com in a July 8 report. “The dramatic, mindless cuts proposed to surface transportation programs will destroy nearly 500,000 American jobs next year alone, undermine our Nation’s long-term economic competitiveness, and jeopardize our economic recovery.”
Highlights of the proposal include the following:
Streamlining & Reform
- Streamlines the project delivery process by cutting bureaucratic red-tape, delegating more decision making authority to states, allowing federal agencies to review transportation projects concurrently, and setting hard deadlines for federal agencies to approve projects.
- Reforms the surface transportation programs by consolidating or eliminating approximately 70 programs that are duplicative or do not serve a federal purpose.
- No longer requires states to spend highway funding on non-highway activities, but permits them to fund those activities if they so choose.
- Provides states the flexibility to fund their highest project priorities, but holds them accountable for those decisions through performance measures.
- Provides additional funding for the TIFIA loan program to meet demand for low interest loans for transportation projects.
- Allows states to toll new lanes on the Interstate System, while ensuring that existing Interstate lanes remain toll-free.
- Encourages states to create and capitalize State Infrastructure Banks to provide loans for transportation projects at the state level.