(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Thank you Secretary LaHood and the rest of today’s witnesses for being here today to discuss such an important issue -- the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
This is about jobs and our economy. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every $1 billion in Federal funds invested in transportation (and matched by states or locals), there are 34,779 jobs created and $6.1 billion in economic activity. That is why immediately addressing the anticipated insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund must be a top priority
We are facing a possible reduction in transportation spending because the Highway Trust Fund is expected to encounter a shortfall as early as August. According to Department of Transportation estimates, an additional $5 to 7 billion will be needed to keep the Federal-aid Highway Program running through the end of fiscal year 2009 and an additional $8 to $10 billion will be needed in fiscal year 2010.
The Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund is also expected to run out of funds soon.
The Highway Trust Fund provides Federal funding for our nation’s highway, bridge and transit systems. Traditionally, the Federal government provides about 40% of the capital expenditures for highway transportation nationwide. Without this critical funding, state and local governments would be forced to dramatically cut spending on transportation.
Earlier this year, Congress passed and the President signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), which provided a total of $48 billion for transportation improvements.
Of that $48 billion about $27.5 billion was included for the highway program. These dollars are already putting people back to work, while at the same time making improvements to the transportation system that will help move people and goods more efficiently in the future.
According to DOT data and an analysis by the American Road and Transportation Builders, by the end of May, state and local transportation agencies had invested more than $13 billion, almost half of the $26.8 billion in ARRA funds that had been apportioned or allocated, and much more than the $9.3 billion that was required to be obligated within 120 days of apportionment.
These transportation investments provided in ARRA are having a positive impact today in communities nationwide.
We must have continued investment from the highway trust fund to maintain these jobs, and to make additional, needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure.
I recently sent a letter with several of my Senate colleagues who serve as Chairs and Ranking Members of the relevant authorizing committees requesting that the Administration come forward and work with us to find a solution to the immediate problem. I am pleased that the Administration is working with Congress to address this pending problem.
Just last week, Secretary LaHood proposed that Congress pass an immediate 18 month extension of the current highway, transit and highway safety authorization, and that Congress immediately replenish the Highway Trust Fund to avoid a shortfall.
As I am sure Secretary LaHood will mention today, the Department of Transportation now estimates the Highway Trust Fund will require a cash infusion of about $20 billion to support both highway and transit programs for the next 18 months.
I look forward to working with the Administration on this proposal, which would keep the recovery and job creation moving forward and give us the necessary time to pass a more comprehensive and transformational multi-year transportation authorization bill with stable and reliable funding sources.
As we work our way out of this recession, the last thing we want to do is to drastically cut back on necessary transportation priorities. Spending on transportation means jobs and more efficient movement of people and goods, all of which benefit our economy.
In order to help make sure transportation priorities are not cut, I ask the Secretary to ensure his department provides expedited technical assistance as we work to craft this extension. The time is short and we need the Department’s input to help ensure the legislation works as intended.
Thanks again to the witnesses for appearing today. I look forward to your testimony.