I want to welcome and thank Transportation Secretary Slater for joining the Subcommittee today to discuss the Administration's proposal for reauthorizing the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.
It was my hope, as I know it was the Secretary's, to have the Administration's reauthorization proposal available by this date. I regret that we do not, but I am grateful that the Secretary will share with the Subcommittee today as much information as possible.
The Congress has seven months to complete it's work on reauthorizing our nation's surface transportation programs. We are well aware that if new legislation is not enacted by September 30, funds will not be available to our state and local transportation partners.
I know that the Secretary joins the Subcommittee in our commitment to meeting that deadline. This Subcommittee wants to work cooperativel with the Administration on this legislation to be sure our transportation system can respond to the challenges ahead.
As the Subcommittee continues its work to develop a reauthorization bill, it is critical for the Administration to be able to participate in our process.
It is my understanding that while no legislation is ready at this time, the Department has given us some indication of what is likely to be included in their proposal.
I welcome the opportunity for the Secretary to provide more details today and to engage in further discussions as their proposal is finalized.
My initial reaction to what is available about the proposal is that it appears to fall short of my goals to improve the mobility of all Americans and to enhance the movement of goods to domestic and world markets.
Senator Baucus and I have been working to secure higher contract authority funding levels in the Budget Resolution to $26 billion annually. I am very concerned that - - despite the serious needs of our surface transportation system, the Administration's contract authority levels are relatively stagnant.
Real funding for our surface transportation system, however, will decline as more and more Trust Fund dollars are diverted for Amtrak and freight rail activities.
I look forward to a continuing dialogue with Secretary Slater on these issues and will have some questions on the proposed formulas during my questioning period.