Vitter Summary Statement for Hearing on MAP-21 Reauthorization
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “MAP-21 Reauthorization: The Economic Importance of Maintaining Federal Investments in our Transportation Infrastructure”
February 12, 2014
Thank you Chairman Boxer for holding today's hearing.
It is good to be turning our attention to the reauthorization of MAP-21. And from discussions with Senator Boxer, we expect this hearing to be the start of another busy year focused on infrastructure, this time working together on polices to address the challenges facing our highway transportation infrastructure.
Also thank you to our witnesses. I know you have busy schedules and your willingness to take time to be here today shows the importance of transportation infrastructure to your organizations. Collectively you all represent a diverse set of interests and I look forward to examining our upcoming challenges and building policies from each perspective.
Infrastructure is a critical component of our nation's economy and our quality of life. A first-class infrastructure is fundamental to connect people and communities, and is a critical building block in developing, sustaining, and growing an economy.
In 2011 alone, the US transportation system moved 17.6 billion tons of good valued at an estimated $16.8 trillion dollars.
However, just last week CBO came out with their updated projections for the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, the Trust Fund is accelerating towards bankruptcy faster than anticipated and action must be taken before the end of the fiscal year to avoid a nearly 100% drop in new federal funds for FY'15.
The economic impact of such a drop will resonate far beyond the lack of direct investment into our infrastructure. Inaction will also drastically disrupt the project delivery supply chain, the efficiency and cost of the movement of goods, and our overall global competiveness.
The Highway Trust Fund was intended to not only facilitate the unique characteristics of funding transportation infrastructure but also to provide funding safeguards for the highest priority transportation infrastructure projects.
Putting such a structure on sound fiscal footing will restore the stability and certainty in the Highway Trust Fund that is so vital to economic growth in this country.
Now some believe that it's a core conservative principle to adhere to our current flawed mechanism in perpetuity and that's all there should ever be to meet our infrastructure demands.
I don't understand that.
Nonetheless, I do understand what a net tax increase means for cash-strapped middle-class families and will not seek a solution that leaves middle class families holding the bill.
When the Highway Trust Fund structure was first established, it was designed to build the Interstate Highway System. It was structured based on the simple principle that first, you map out and define a detailed plan; you come up with a cost to complete that plan and then build a user-based financing structure to complete the task.
Such thinking not only produced the certainty of 13-year authorization bill, but also established both government accountability and trust from the system-users.
However, that type of thinking is almost unrecognizable in our transportation funding structure today.
The actions of the last six years represent a significant departure from the intent of the Highway Trust Fund and have prolonged economic uncertainty not only in the direct investment of our infrastructure but also the type of long-term investment that drives economic development at home and makes us more competitive abroad.
If we are going to be successful at putting such a structure back on a sustainable course and deliver on the economic promise of sound infrastructure investment, we must work to put trust back in the Highway Trust Fund
This means we can't keep adding programs and eligibility to the Trust Fund that are narrowly focus, that don't build or maintain infrastructure or do very little to benefit those you pay into of the system.
This means that the Trust Fund needs to be even more transparent than before. We need to be able to show where taxpayer's dollars are going and where future investment may or may not be utilized on a project by project level.
And finally we must instill trust by continuing to reduce the cost, burden and impact of the red-tape that comes along with federal funds.
Many, including myself, support a limited federal role in investing in our transportation infrastructure, but that should not be mistaken for support of a federal program that is not efficient with taxpayer dollars, entrusts decision making to bureaucrats or that works to coerces us into using one mode of transportation over another.
The reason why states and local governments are having success in dealing with infrastructure investment is because they have often established a better level of trust with constituents and are better at demonstrating what exactly funding would do.
The good news is that MAP-21 made significant strides towards restoring that trust. The reforms in this bill have moved us in the right direction in terms of building confidence in the program. But our work to rebuilding trust is not complete.
Again, I thank the chair and the witnesses for their hard work. I look forward to hearing your testimony and working together to getting our nation's infrastructure back on track.