Hearing on the Economic Importance of Maintaining Federal Investments in Our Transportation Infrastructure
February 12, 2014
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today's hearing focuses on the importance of maintaining federal funding for transportation, ensuring the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, and averting a funding crisis later this year.
We will hear from our witnesses, who are national leaders representing businesses, states, and workers who build, maintain, and utilize our transportation system.
I am pleased to once again welcome Tom Donohue from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Richard Trumka from the AFL-CIO. They are joined by The Honorable Mike Hancock, Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and current President of AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), Dr. Pete Ruane, President and CEO of ARBTA (American Road and Transportation Builders Association), and Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
There will be devastating impacts felt across the economy if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of funds later this year. Colleagues, we cannot and must not let that happen.
Here are the sobering facts: CBO and DOT estimate that the Highway Trust Fund may run out of funds as early as September 2014, which would create cash flow problems for states during the critical summer construction season.
Due to the uncertainty leading up to that bleak scenario, states are already beginning to develop contingency plans to prepare for reductions in federal transportation funding, which includes cutting pending projects from their current funding plans. That is terrible for business and workers.
According to Georgia's Department of Transportation, if federal funding is cut, "we wouldn't be able to fund any new projects."
Officials from other states' have made similar statements, and the effects are very negative to say the least.
As states postpone putting construction contracts out to bid, businesses will be more reluctant to invest, and that impact will be felt through the entire economy.
Let me be clear - the pending Highway Trust Fund shortfall needs to be addressed by an infusion of funds, otherwise CBO estimates that obligations for new projects in 2015 would need to be reduced to zero. This would result in federal highway, highway safety, and transit funding being cut by $50.8 billion in FY 2015 with almost 1.8 million jobs lost. Only old projects could be funded - no more new projects.
Again, this means that states will be unable to obligate any federal funds for any new projects, perhaps as early as this summer.
It is critical for our nation to continue investing in our aging infrastructure. Therefore, preserving the Highway Trust Fund needs to be our number one priority in this Committee, in other Committees, and in the Senate and the House.
We must work together to find the sweet spot for a dependable, bipartisan source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund. A strong transportation system is vital to ensuring the economic competitiveness of the United States, and this requires maintaining federal investments in our transportation infrastructure.
A report last year from the National Association of Manufacturers found that 70 percent of U.S. manufacturers believe America's roads are getting worse and 67 percent believe that infrastructure is important enough to American businesses that all options to fund investments should be on the table.
Roads and bridges are neither Democratic nor Republican, and I am proud of the bipartisan support on our Committee to report out a bill - I hope a 5 or 6 year bill.
I have begun discussions with Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch on funding the Highway Trust Fund. They have that responsibility and I know we will all work with them.
To all of our witnesses, thank you for being here and for your advocacy for a strong transportation system. We need you now more than ever, and whatever our differences may be in other areas, let's commit to being partners on this challenge.