Senator Bob Smith, Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Nuclear Safety
Hearing to examine fiscal year 2003 budget for Federal Highway Administration
February 11, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I too would like to offer a warm welcome to our witnesses this afternoon. As I promised at our full committee hearing on TEA-21 reauthorization just a couple weeks ago, I have looked closely at the RABA mechanism and the highway funding level for fiscal year 2003, and I believe we have come up with a responsible solution. In reauthorization of TEA-21 we will need to re-examine the RABA calculation method so that it does not result in these amplified ups and downs in funding. I look forward to working with Administrator Peters and Assistant Secretary McLean on that issue.
More immediately, however, we need to address the drop of almost 30% in highway funding for fiscal year 2003. I do not believe that this is what Congress intended when we passed the RABA provision in TEA-21. What was intended was that Highway Trust Fund revenues would equal highway spending. There is no dispute that the country=s economic growth produced revenues well above the levels predicted in TEA-21, and so RABA resulted in funding increases. However, now that revenues have dropped off, the RABA calculation would result in a spending level well below actual revenues. In fact, the President=s budget proposes a highway spending level of $23 billion when the latest Treasury Department projections put highway trust fund revenues at over $28 billion for 2003. Congress did not intend for this discrepancy, regardless of the results of a complicated and obviously flawed calculation formula.
Our solution was to introduce S. 1917, the AHighway Funding Restoration Act,@ for which all 19 members of this committee are original cosponsors. I believe this bill clarifies congressional intent by clearly stating that highway funding for fiscal year 2003 will be no less than $27.7 billion, the amount authorized in TEA-21. I will continue to work throughout the budget and appropriations process to make sure this funding is restored and distributed to the state programs, and not diverted to project earmarks.
Finally, I want to commend Administrator Peters for her leadership and commitment to the issue of environmental streamlining. As one of the authors of this provision in TEA-21, I have continued to focus attention on it at every opportunity. I also created a pilot project in New Hampshire to illustrate how state and federal agencies are supposed to apply streamlining to an environmental impact statement process. These agencies committed to complete an EIS for the I-93 widening project in little more than two years, and they remain on schedule. I invite you, Administrator Peters, to come up to New Hampshire to attend this project=s celebration of success later this year.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.