NSSGA tells us that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee may unveil its version of the long-awaited surface transportation reauthorization bill the week of the Fourth of July. While the details of the bill are unknown, insiders have told NSSGA to expect reforms to the program, including: program consolidation, expedited project delivery time, enhanced use of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, increased tolling and more public-private partnerships.
The overall funding level, however, is expected to reflect the 30-percent reduction in highway funding contained in the recently passed House budget resolution. A 30-percent reduction? Really? Is there any limit to congressional ignorance when it comes to crafting a bill that creates jobs and stimulates the economy? I am beginning to think the House of Representatives does not want to stimulate the economy ahead of the 2012 elections, which in my mind, is a financial crime against all Americans and a threat to our national safety and security.
Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told a meeting of surface transportation stakeholders on June 16 that she is readying a reauthorization bill of shorter duration than expected from the House. Boxer said it will be a two-year bill funded at current levels adjusted for inflation. While it will include an enhanced Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and perhaps an Infrastructure Bank, these are on top of the formula funding program. In order to keep level funding for two years, the committee needs to find $12 billion – $6 billion annually over two years, Boxer said.
Boxer wants to introduce her Senate bill before House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica unveils his six-year bill the week of July 4. Boxer said the Finance Committee is now looking to find the additional revenues and asked stakeholders to weigh in with all Finance Committee members to urge action and support for their efforts. Those meetings are under way.
The situation is very fluid. NSSGA asks members to urge action by lawmakers to pass a reauthorization bill before the end of the fiscal year. Reauthorization is essential for economic growth, maintaining global competitiveness, job creation and freedom of mobility. Congress needs to act now.
Thanks to NSSGA for its pressure on our legislators. But you must also do your part. Contact your representative and demand positive and correct action on infrastructure funding now, not after the 2012 elections.
Mark S. Kuhar, editor
Member: Construction Writers Association