House rolls out six-year reauthorization proposal: Funding at last or financial road to ruin?
“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.
- Distributes nearly all federal highway funding to state DOTs through formula programs designed to preserve existing highways, build new highway capacity, and address congestion, freight mobility, and highway safety.
- Focuses the federal highway program on the Interstate Highway System and the National Highway System — the highways that facilitate interstate travel and interstate commerce.
- Removes current barriers that prevent the private sector from offering public transportation services.
- Provides more of a focus on transit programs that benefit suburban and rural areas and will improve transit options for the elderly and disabled.
Highway and Motor Carrier Safety
- Prioritizes safety funding by holding highway and motor carrier safety programs harmless from any spending cuts in the bill.
- Ensures that federal regulators keep unsafe trucks and buses off the road while allowing companies that operate in a safe and responsible manner to continue to do so.
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