Yesterday morning, House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica outlined his transportation reauthorization proposal in a 16-page document titled “A New Direction.” Unfortunately for the tri-state region and arguably the rest of the country, that direction is backwards.
The House bill aligns transportation spending with the amount of gas tax revenues collected by the Highway Trust Fund, at $35-42 billion/year adding up to $230 billion over 6 years, which is a 34% cut from current federal transportation funding levels. It would also eliminate any set-aside of transportation funds for pedestrian and cycling projects. The current 80/20 funding split between roads and public transit would be maintained.
Chairman Mica made it clear that while he would personally like to see higher funding levels for transportation, his hands are tied by procedural rule changes, passed by the Republican-led House at the beginning of the year, that prohibit spending beyond existing revenues. Gas tax revenue has declined as Americans drive less and turn to more efficient vehicles; the gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and no alternate sources of transportation revenue have been found.
Despite two years of reports and studies produced by think tanks, blue ribbon commissions, advocates, labor, business, industry, health, equity, and environmental groups on the urgency of the country’s growing transportation needs, this collective call has fallen on deaf ears under current leadership in the House. It seems that no amount of data or facts can usurp the sole guiding principle in the House of Representatives — a “cut spending” mantra that has absolved lawmakers of the responsibility of solving the problem of declining transportation revenue.
Senate staff released state-by-state data estimating the funding and job impacts the bill would have. Here’s the damage in the tri-state region:
Proposed Federal Highway Funding Cuts to the Tri-State Region (source)
|State||FY11 Actual||House GOP Proposal FY12||Reduction||Jobs Lost|
Proposed Federal Transit Funding Cuts to the Tri-State Region (source)
|State||FY 11 Actual||House GOP Proposal FY 12||Reduction||Jobs Lost|
Total Proposed Highway and Transit Funding Cuts to the Tri-State Region
|State||FY 11 Actual||House GOP Proposal FY 12||Reduction||Total Jobs Lost|
With the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee reportedly working on a 2-year bill that would maintain transportation funding, Chairman Mica and other Republican committee members kept emphasizing the importance of the predictability his 6-year bill would bring to states, even at significantly lowered funding levels. It’s hard to imagine they’ll welcome 6 years of predictably bad news.