ISTEA Reauthorization
March 28, 1997

I am Dick Howard, Director of the Intergovernmental Relations for South Dakota. Prior to this, I served 10 and a half years as Secretary of the Department of Transportation in South Dakota.

I'm here today not only speaking for South Dakota but also on behalf of the Departments of Transportation in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Legislation establishing the future, size and shape of the Federal Highway Program is of critical importance to the nation and to this region of the country. So we're very pleased to have this opportunity to present our views, and we thank you again for allowing us to participate.

Before I describe our position, I want to take a moment to say how much we appreciated Senator Reid's contribution to the development of the current highway program. Six years I testified in Washington before Senator Reid and other senators in very strong support of a bipartisan bill, which Senator Reid, Senator Baucus and Senator Bryan and eight others introduced. It was known as the Reid-Baucus Bill, and I think if you look back at that bill in 1991, you'll find that many parts of the core program of ISTEA were contained in that initial bill, which was introduced by Senators Reid and Baucus.

Senator Reid, certainly his efforts made a positive contribution to the final legislative outcome. So I want to take this opportunity again to thank you, Senator Reid, for your participation then, and we know that you're going to continue to be a strong player this year, as will Senator Chafee.

Our basic position of our States is that we strongly support the Surface Transportation Authorization and Regulatory Streamlining Act, which has been called STARS 2000. Its proposal, which is being prepared for introduction by Senators Baucus, Kempthorne and Thomas -- and we understand that it will be introduced during the week following the concurrent Congressional Easter recess. These senators deserve great credit for their work. We believe that STARS 2000 is an excellent proposal, which will address the needs of the nation and our States in a thoughtful way.

I might also add that it would provide a highway funding level and program share for Nevada, which far exceeds that which would be provided under any other proposal.

I have a table, which I will hand out later, that shows the State of Nevada's share of the Federal highway funds would increase by an amount of $60 million to $80 million per year more than the current ISTEA amount. Plus, there is a larger Federal lands program, which would substantially benefit Nevada, as well as the other States which have significant portions of their land area under Federal ownership.

Basically, in my testimony I want to discuss major recommendations dealing with reauthorization of the Federal Highway Program, and I will list those now:

Number one, it should increase funding levels to as high as the highway account for the Highway Trust Fund can sustain; number two, it should emphasize investment in the National Highway System; number three, it should achieve a distribution of funds among the States that is fair and based on the national interest; number four, it should provide States greater flexibility to determine how to invest transportation funds while retaining some Federal program emphasis areas; number five, it should reduce regulation of States by the Federal Government; and, number six, continue many aspects of present law, such as provisions requiring planning and public involvement in planning.

I will go into a little bit of detail on each of these. In terms of increasing the Federal Highway Program levels, I'm not going to dwell on this. We believe that the overall highway program funding levels should be maintained at a level which would fully utilize the income coming into the highway trust fund, plus interest on the balance and a gradual draw down of that balance. As has been testified earlier this morning, that would be in the range of $26 billion to $27 billion per year.

I am aware that something over 60 senators signed letters and submitted to Chairman Domenici of the Budget Committee recommending higher levels of funding for the transportation program in future years. Also, as Governor Miller mentioned this morning, the MGA has strongly supported that, and I think that a letter signed by, like, 40 governors was recently submitted to the Budget Committee.

In terms of distributing the funds, we propose that there be two core programs -- the National Highway System and a Surface Transportation Program -- and that the factors which go into these should be based on extent and usage of these systems. The NHS factors that we propose would include lane miles, vehicle miles of travel and a special fuel -- a diesel factor. The STP formula would include a Federal eight-system lane miles and VMT, plus bridge surface area, including factors such as Federal lands, air quality and population density.

I have a map that I would like to hand out, if I could very quickly, Mr. Chairman, which shows -- this map deals with the proposed formulas. The first map shows the number of States which would do better under the STARS 2000 proposal than they would do under the six-year average of ISTEA, and, as you can see, there are 33 States that would do better under STARS 2000 than ISTEA.