I would like to thank you Ms. Peters, for testifying before our subcommittee today on the Administration’s fiscal year 2004 budget request for the Federal Highway Administration.
I cannot say that I am very pleased with this initial report of what is to come from the Administration in terms of a reauthorization proposal. However, I look forward to receiving your proposal so that we might be able to work with the Administration as we develop our Chairman’s mark.
As you know, the President’s Budget request includes a $29.3 billion obligation limitation for the Federal-aid Highways Program. This is a $2.5 billion cut compared to the $31.8 billion that Congress just passed less than 2-weeks ago in the Omnibus Appropriations bill.
It appears that the Administration has not yet heard the resounding support that the Senate has for our nation’s infrastructure by sending up a budget number that does not even reach the FY2003 levels of funding.
To illustrate the level of support within the Senate for higher levels of funding, I have a letter which has been signed by 63 Senators and counting to the Senate Budget Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and our Leaders saying that $29.3 billion is inadequate to enable the Congress to pass the reauthorization of TEA-21.
$29.3 billion is inadequate to even get a bill out of this Committee. My own state of Missouri has the 3rd worst roads in the nation, with 59% of its major roads in either poor or mediocre condition, and requiring immediate repair or reconstruction. Missouri also has the second worst bridges in the nation, with 26% of its bridges 20 feet or longer structurally deficient.
The needs of Missouri fall in line with the Department of Transportation’s recently released Conditions and Performance Report which estimates that the annual Federal investment in roads must increase by 17 percent per year simply to maintain the nation’s existing highway and bridge system. Improving the system will require 65 percent more than is currently invested.
I commend the Administration for proposing to spend some of the balances in the Highway Trust Fund, thereby spurring economic growth through additional revenue. I believe that we must spend the balances down even further over the life of the next authorization to create even greater revenue and jobs.
I look forward to working with the Administration in the coming months to structure a comprehensive reauthorization package to improve the overall condition of our nation’s highways. Thank you for your testimony.