Senate proposes $109 billion, two-year transportation funding bill

| July 20, 2011

California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer proposed on July 6 a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill — a four-year and several billion dollar difference from that of the House Republicans proposal made that same day.

The House version of the bill, proposed by Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Chair John Mica (R-Fla.) calls for $35 billion a year in spending throughout six years.

Mica told Bloomberg Business Week that the Senate proposal will put the nation on course to bankrupt the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). “A two-year bill is a recipe for bankrupting the trust fund,” Mica said in the Bloomberg report.

However, Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has argued that the United States spends $12 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan. “All we are looking for here is $12 billion over two years,” Boxer said in the Bloomberg report.

For a blog post that discusses the proposal, click here. (http://transportation.nationaljournal.com/2011/07/micas-bill-stability-or-road-t.php)

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), almost 500,000 jobs would be lost across the country if Congress were to act on the House passed budget plan and impose significant cuts to our transportation programs, Boxer points out. (For a downloadable PDF of “State-by-State Impacts to Cuts in Highway Infrastructure Investment,” click here.)

In a prepared remarks delivered on July 7, Boxer decried the House’s proposal.

Boxer’s remarks from the press conference, as prepared for delivery, follow:

“We are at a critical moment today when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure. I am here to shine a light on what is at stake for our nation’s economy and American families.

The current surface transportation bill expires on September 30, and Congress must decide in the coming days which path to choose: protect jobs and put people to work, or throw hundreds of thousands of people out of work in a sector that has suffered enormously during the recession.

The Senate is working on an approach that will immediately jumpstart the economy, but we are running out of time and must act quickly.

In contrast, the House has signaled that it intends to go in a direction that will result in overwhelming job losses in the construction sector, which has been devastated during the economic downturn. Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out a budget blue print that calls for a 36 percent funding cut for the nation’s highway programs.

That 36 percent cut in transportation was passed by the Republican House and unless their Transportation Committee acts to change that, that cut becomes very real.

As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have been working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to develop a bipartisan transportation proposal that will support current funding levels, and create jobs by expanding TIFIA, which traditionally leverages federal dollars at a 30 to 1 ratio through an already successful loan program.

There is tremendous support from businesses, workers, and the American people for a transportation bill that promotes sound economic growth.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue have joined together in calling for quick action on a transportation bill that will create jobs and spur an economic recovery.

Under the House passed budget, all fifty states would experience job losses, and the consequences for families across the nation would be devastating.

According to an analysis by the Federal Highway Administration, about 500,000 Americans would lose their jobs in fiscal year 2012 — just in the highway program alone.

Let’s look at the transportation related job losses nationwide under the Ryan budget. (charts with state-by-state data were shown)

Our long term prosperity also requires that we invest in our infrastructure. Our transportation systems used to be the best in the world, but investments have not kept up with the needs, and now we are falling behind.

According to a report by the Department of the Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisors, the United States currently spends 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, a 50 percent decline from 1960. Meanwhile, China is spending close to 9 percent of their GDP on infrastructure.

A congressionally mandated report in 2008 called for investments of up to at least $225 billion annually over the next 50 years at all levels of government to bring our existing surface transportation infrastructure to a good state of repair. All combined, our States, cities and the Federal Government are spending 40 percent less than that amount.

The underinvestment in infrastructure has led to a crumbling transportation system. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2009 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” gave our nation’s infrastructure a “D.” A “D” is not the grade a world leader with an infrastructure system for the 21st Century would receive.

According to the Department of Transportation, over 50 percent of highway miles are traveled on roads in less than “good” condition and over 70,000 of our nation’s bridges are structurally deficient.

The choice is clear.  We must invest in our aging infrastructure for the long-term economic health of this nation, to keep the U.S. competitive in the global marketplace, and to move America forward.”

For commentary from Better Roads Editor-in-Chief John Latta on both proposals, see his Roadologist blog post “Dualing Proposals.”

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