STATEMENT OF SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
Full Committee Transportation Briefing
November 18, 2009
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today we are joined by John D. Porcari, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Roy Kienitz, Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation, who will brief the Committee on issues related to the reauthorization of the next surface transportation bill and the status of transportation programs given current funding levels.
Thank you both for being here today.
In addition to maintaining our nation’s vital bridges, roads, public transportation and other related infrastructure, investments in transportation are proven job creators. The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportation and matched by the states supports approximately 35,000 jobs.
That is why extension of the surface transportation program is so important.
In July – well before the current authorization expired – the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Banking Committee and the Finance Committee each acted to move ahead with an 18-month extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), with bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, there was objection on the Minority side to floor consideration of the legislation extending these important programs for 18-months, and SAFETEA-LU expired at the end of September.
This necessitated two short term extensions to the surface transportation program, attached to Continuing Resolutions.
Budget rules governing continuing resolutions mean less money is available for states. Short term stopgap fixes also don’t provide states with the certainty they need to keep crucial transportation projects moving forward.
A multi-month extension of SAFETEA-LU is the best solution. It would give states the certainty they need to plan and contract for transportation infrastructure projects – which will keep American workers on the job. It would also give the Department of Transportation’s highway safety agencies the certainty they need to keep motorists safe on our roads.
Nevertheless, the objections have continued. As a result, although I prefer an 18 month extension, the EPW, Banking, Commerce and Finance Committees are currently working to advance a 6-month extension that will restore state funding to the fiscal year 2009 level and help reverse the rescission of $8.7 billion that occurred when SAFETEA-LU expired.
A small number of Senators on the Minority side continue to object and will not allow any extension to be considered by the Senate without a cloture vote.
Senator Inhofe and I, along with other Chairmen and Ranking members, wrote this week to the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader and urged them to break this logjam, so we can put Americans back to work and keep our economy moving.
Once we pass a multi-month extension, we will continue our bipartisan efforts to enact a multi-year surface transportation bill. An extension will, however, ensure the program can continue with sufficient funding while Congress concentrates on a comprehensive, truly transformational surface transportation bill and a new, sustainable source of funding to create jobs and deliver the quality transportation services our citizens deserve and our economy needs.
I look forward to hearing from the Department of Transportation today.