Senator Tom Carper
February 11, 2002
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Nuclear Security
Federal Highway Administration Budget
Iíd like to thank the chairman for holding this important hearing today and for giving me the opportunity to make a statement before his subcommittee on an issue that is important to all of our states.
When President Bush released his Fiscal Year 2003 budget one week ago today, the budget for the Federal Highway Administration, particularly for the Federal-Aid Highway program, was one of the more attention-grabbing pieces.† After three years in which states received more than $9 billion in aid above the numbers projected in TEA-21, the program was cut by nearly $9 billion.† As we all know, this cut came as a result of Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA), which, for the first time, was negative due to lower-than-expected revenue into the Highway Trust Fund.† This means that, under the presidentís budget, Delaware, for example, will experience a nearly $30 million cut in federal highway aid in 2003, about 24 percent less than its 2002 allocation.† Other states will see even more dramatic cuts.† At a time when the economy is just beginning to recover from recession, when combined state budget shortfalls are at $15 billion and many states are being forced to trim their budgets or raise taxes, Congress should act to restore some of these cuts.† Thatís why I joined all of my colleagues on the full committee in co-sponsoring S. 1917, the Highway Funding Restoration Act, a bill that would raise federal highway aid next year to the 2003 level called for in TEA-21.
In the coming year, I look forward to working with my colleagues to fix RABA to ensure that, in the future, states are provided with a steadier stream of highway funding.† The Federal-Aid Highway program should not be as subject as it is now to the ups and downs of the economy and the Highway Trust Fund should not suffer from the nationís increased reliance on alternative fuels.† At the same time we are addressing these issues, however, we must enhance the flexibility TEA-21 gave states in spending their federal transportation dollars by allowing them the discretion to spend at least a portion of their highway and transit funding on inter-city rail projects.† Just last month, in the first hearing the full committee held on TEA-21 re-authorization, we heard from representatives of the National Governorsí Association, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, all of whom expressed strong support for expanding the flexibility built into TEA-21 to cover inter-city rail.† The mayors, in particular, released the results of a transportation survey showing that increased funding for new inter-city rail projects was one of their membersí top priorities.† I was pleased to hear several of my colleagues echoing the witnessesí testimony that day when they spoke about the desire among their constituents for passenger rail service that can connect them to our growing national system. Allowing states to spend at least a portion of their federal highway and transit dollars on inter-city rail projects will significantly improve Amtrakís ability to build on its existing long distance routes and begin serving cities and towns that currently have no passenger rail service at all.
In the last Congress, the full committee passed S. 1144, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed the funds TEA-21 granted states for the National Highway System, Surface Transportation and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Programs to be spent on inter-city rail projects.† I hope to introduce similar legislation shortly.†
As Iím sure you all know, Amtrak President George Warrington announced earlier this month that he would trim nearly 1,000 jobs and $300 million from Amtrakís budget this year.† He also announced that Amtrak will have to propose major route reductions if it does not receive the necessary funding from Congress to pay its operating and capital expenses.† The most likely candidates for route reductions are those routes outside the Northeast Corridor that are not partially supported by states.† In the coming year, I plan to work with my colleagues to see that Amtrak is re-authorized, that its budget requests are met and that a dedicated source of capital funding is created.†
My bill will not solve Amtrakís capital funding dilemma.† What my bill will do is help states retain critical service by increasing the tools they have available to them to spend their highway and transit dollars more flexibly to retain critical service.† Increased flexibility will not cost the federal government anything and will not require any state to fund inter-city rail projects if it does not want to do so.† It will, however, give states the ability to give our constituents the transportation services they need.† It is my hope, then, that, when the committee considers S. 1917, we can also act to give states the kind of flexibility our constituents and their governors, mayors and county administrators are asking for.††††† †††††††††††††