Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer
Full Committee Hearing on the Importance of Reauthorizing Federal Surface Transportation Programs
January 28, 2015
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
I am pleased that the EPW Committee’s first hearing in the 114th Congress is focused on the importance of federal funding for our nation’s transportation infrastructure, because we are facing a critical deadline in four short months.
Transportation bills have a long history of bipartisanship in Congress and I am hopeful that we will continue working together across the aisle in the coming months. In November 2011, this Committee reported MAP-21 out by a unanimous vote of 18-0. MAP-21 passed the Senate in March 2012 by a vote of 74-22, and the conference report was enacted in June 2012 by a vote of 74-19 in the Senate. In May 2014, this Committee approved the 6-year MAP-21 Reauthorization Act by another unanimous vote. This shows the strong bipartisan support for enacting transportation bills and why I believe we can do so again.
A robust, multi-year surface transportation bill will support millions of jobs for American workers and help the construction industry, which was hit hard by the Great Recession. There are approximately 1.6 million fewer construction workers today compared to 2006 -- which equals roughly 20 percent of all construction jobs -- and over 600,000 construction workers remain out of work in the U.S.
As you know, the law that currently authorizes our surface transportation programs is set to expire on May 31st -- right as the critical summer construction season is beginning.
The Highway Trust Fund is projected to face cash flow problems around the same time. That means that billions of dollars in transportation funding to the states will be delayed or stopped.
There is a growing chorus from states in recent months that the Highway Trust Fund is in serious trouble and much-needed transportation projects are in peril. Arkansas and Tennessee have already delayed or canceled construction projects due to the uncertainty in federal transportation funding, and other states are considering similar action as the construction season fast approaches. When we approached a transportation funding shutdown last summer, numerous states took preemptive action to cancel transportation projects due to the uncertainty whether federal funding would continue.
The projected shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund creates funding uncertainty, and that is bad for businesses, bad for workers, and bad for the economy. We already know that an insolvent Highway Trust Fund will have a domino effect that will be felt throughout the economy.
Addressing the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and passing a long-term transportation bill before the May deadline will have a real economic impact across the country. It will provide funding stability for state and local governments and businesses that rely on federal transportation funding, and it will create or save millions of jobs.
A modern transportation system is the foundation for a strong U.S. economy. Maintaining and improving our roads, bridges, and transit systems is necessary to ensure our global competitiveness. Nationwide there are 63,500 bridges that are structurally deficient and 50 percent of our nation’s roads are in less than good condition.
Transportation is and should be a nonpartisan issue. Taking action to save the Highway Trust Fund and invest in our aging infrastructure is strongly supported by businesses, labor, and transportation organizations.
The six-year reauthorization of MAP-21 that this Committee unanimously approved last May built off of the substantial reforms included in MAP-21 and provided long-term funding certainty for highway and bridge programs. I am hopeful we will have similar success in our Committee this year.
I am also hopeful that the Senate Banking and Commerce Committees will move quickly on their portions of the surface transportation bill, and the House must act as well as soon as possible.
We also need to identify a bipartisan, dependable source of funding for the HTF. Finding that sweet spot will require us to consider a broad range of options in order to find a long-term solution to our transportation funding crisis. I am currently working across the aisle on a proposal to provide stable funding for the HTF through repatriation, which would not only save the HTF, but would stimulate the economy by bringing back hundreds of billions of dollars in offshore earnings.
We have two excellent witness panels today and I am so pleased to welcome Secretary Foxx back to our Committee. I am also looking forward to hearing from our second panel with Governors representing diverse regions of this nation who will discuss how important Federal transportation funding is to their states.
Congress cannot shirk our responsibility to get our work done this year. States, businesses, and workers need the certainty from a long-term transportation bill. We must act now because failure is not an option.