Tags: Inhofe | mass | transportation | multi-year

Senate Committee Looks at Highways and Transit

By    |   Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 07:58 AM

As part of the ongoing rollout of the 114th Congress and the federal budget, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., received the annual report on the reauthorization of federal highway and transit programs from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Jan. 28.

These programs have great economic significance for the affected communities as sources of job creation and support for regional economies. Oddly this committee shares jurisdiction over mass transit with the Senate Banking Committee.

Inhofe began his remarks with a statement that it is understood in Oklahoma that "defending America and building infrastructure is what the federal government is supposed to be doing. That's it." He recalled that when he served on the counterpart committee in the House of Representatives, the biggest problem in this field was how to manage the surplus in the Highway Trust Fund. Inhofe proclaimed that he intends to do the budget "right this time" and to build on past successes.

He decried the actions of fellow conservatives who insisted on lengthy extensions of existing legislation rather than approve a multi-year reauthorization in accordance with the budget process. Inhofe estimated that approximately 30 percent of a budget is wasted when existing legislation is extended rather than considered as part of the regular process.

Ranking member Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., seconded Inhofe's remarks and noted that this committee is the only one that produced a bill in the last Congress during the regular budget cycle with bipartisan agreement of herself and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

Boxer made the following four points: 1) It is important to the economy and the prospects for the middle class to pass a multi-year bill; 2) nothing should stand in the way of bipartisan agreement; 3) the congressional committees need "to have the courage to fund a multi-year bill" rather than adopt a mere extension, and 4) the Highway Trust Fund is "perilously close" to going bankrupt on May 31, but the deficit in the Fund is less than previously estimated and should be funded.

Inhofe introduced Foxx with lavish praise and anticipation that the committee and Foxx would "be in on 'the big kill' together." Foxx stated that while the Congress is new, the issue he would discuss is an old one, namely the need for a multi-year transportation bill that would include funding and policy reforms to boost America's prospects in competition with global competitors and enable the implementation of innovative technology where this country has fallen behind and needs "to run faster and do more than just keep pace."

Foxx gave examples based on travel to 41 states and more than 100 cities of how "gridlock is Washington is leading to gridlock on Main Street," and he called for action on the Grow America Act, including 350 pages of precise proposals DOT submitted last year, "all focused on the future," but instead Congress approved only a 10-month extension, with flat funding.

In contrast to the outlook in the financial services arena, this hearing provided an all-too-rare opportunity to report positive news from Capitol Hill, since Republicans who run both houses of Congress have an incentive to show they can be productive and there seems to be no veto threat looming from the White House.

(Archived video and witness testimony can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
As part of the ongoing rollout of the 114th Congress and the federal budget, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee received the annual report on the reauthorization of federal highway and transit programs from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Inhofe, mass, transportation, multi-year
552
2015-58-29
Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 07:58 AM
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