August 15, 2012 – NSSGA reports it does not really know what to make of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the presumptive GOP vice-presidential nominee. Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate has raised concerns, or at least questions, in the transportation sector. The worry stems from Ryan’s budget proposal in 2011 that would have incurred a steep cut in transportation funding. In his post as House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan has twice tried to implement drastic cuts in transportation spending in a push to balance the U.S. budget. His plans would have limited highway and transit spending to yearly receipts into the Highway Trust Fund – which are far below what is spent each year. Both this year and last, Ryan proposed budgets that, while never implemented, would have meant a cut of more than 30 percent in transportation spending (although the 2013 budget proposal allowed for more transportation funding if it could be found). Industry and labor quickly geared up in opposition, saying the cuts would have a devastating effect on both U.S. infrastructure and employment in the already-struggling construction sector.
Ryan’s budget also put the brakes on a five-year transportation bill written by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.). Mica initially wrote his bill to comply with the budget, which was significantly less than needed. After being given the thumbs up by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Mica was able to increase the spending level of his bill and was told that the funding for it would be found. Initial funding proposals by the House Ways and Means Committee were overwhelmingly opposed, which required Mica to roll back his reauthorization proposal.
Ryan holds a 95 percent rating on NSSGA’s congressional vote scorecard for 2011-12. He has indicated in meetings with NSSGA staff that he supports moving to a Vehicle Miles Traveled-based user fee to fund transportation that would be supplemented by revenues derived from oil and gas leases. Ryan’s great-grandfather founded Ryan Incorporated Central, a construction company with offices in Janesville, Wis., Chicago, Ill., and Hagerstown, Md., that is involved in road construction and, at one point, was part of the aggregates industry. Ryan briefly worked for his family’s company before he was elected to Congress in 1998.