Good morning. I want to extend a special welcome to Administrator Peters and thank her for joining us this morning.
I also want to extend her my sympathies for once again being sent here to defend a budget proposal that grossly underfunds the nation’s surface transportation needs.
One year ago, we sat in this same room to discuss the President’s proposed 27 percent cut in fiscal year 2003 highway funding.
Today we are here to discuss yet another proposed cut in highway funding for fiscal year 2004, the first year in the Administration’s six year reauthorization proposal. This is unacceptable.
Last year the Administration hid behind RABA, this year there is no excuse.
The Administration proposes a fiscal year 2004 funding level of $29.3 billion. This is over $2 billion below the fiscal year 2003 enacted level.
Despite the Administration’s rhetoric, this budget request does not provide an adequate foundation for any reauthorization proposal of the nation’s surface transportation program.
And unfortunately, the proposal does not improve in the out years. Under the current Administration proposal, the highway program funding level would not reach the current fiscal year’s program level until 2007, and then only with a modest increase.
The President’s proposed funding level for fiscal year 2009, the last year of the reauthorization proposal, is $34 billion.
The most recent Federal Highway Administration Conditions and Performance report estimates Federal investment necessary just to maintain our highway infrastructure will be at least $34 billlion per year. Given that report, I think any responsible, adequate reauthorization proposal should start with a fiscal year 2004 funding level of at least $34 billion.
I have heard countless times that this budget represents a balancing of priorities. Sadly, it appears this President has shifted the balance in favor of tax cuts we cannot afford and to the detriment of highways and other domestic priorities. The American people deserve better.
I cannot understand, given the current state of our economy, why we would want to cut highway spending. For every $1 billion of infrastructure spending we create over 42,000 well-paid private sector jobs.
Administrator Peters, I applaud your efforts to place additional emphasis on the national problems of safety and congestion. While the rate of roadway fatalities continues to decrease, we are still losing far too many lives on our nation’s roadways, a disproportionate share of those fatalities on rural roads.
In addition to the personal tragedy associated with traffic accidents, accidents cost an esimated $137 billion per year in property loses, loses in market productivity, and medical costs. We can and must do better.
Additionally, congestion continues to plague our nation’s urban centers. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates this year residents in the top 75 metropolitan areas will lose more than 3.6 billion hours due to traffic congestion and $67 billion in wasted time and fuel.
In Nevada, the fastest growing state in the union, we are working to address congestion problems in innovative ways.
In conclusion, I look forward to working with Senator Bond and my other EPW colleagues and with you, Administrator Peters, to craft a reauthorization proposal that adequately maintains and improves our nation’s surface transportation system.
I look forward to hearing your testimony.