With Minnesota Democrat James Oberstar’s sweeping bill to reform Transportation policy and fix the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund apparently blocked by the Obama Administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing to renew the existing bill for six more years.
The current authorization, contained in the 2005 act known popularly as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) is due to expire September 30th.
Both proposals are against the Obama Administration’s plan to ignore reforms for 18 months with a temporary injection of billions of dollars into the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund. And all pass the buck on the critical issue of how to pay for what will be a budget busting program of up to half a trillion dollars, if you believe the projections in Oberstar’s “Surface Transportation Authorization Act Of 2009″ introduced last month.
As always, the question of policy revolves around who pays and who benefits. You will undoubtedly pay. Federal gasoline taxes will likely double, at least, from the current 18 cents a gallon because people are driving less and the vehicles they are driving are increasingly more fuel efficient.
The Oberstar bill contains important reform provisions to safeguard how the money is used by states. Current Federal transportation programs have no performance goals and there is no requirement for states, cities, and public transit agencies to develop transportation plans with specific objectives. Worse, the tax money can be diverted for other uses.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today led more than 100 business leaders, association executives, and local members from 28 states to Capitol Hill for a “Transportation is Your Business” fly-in. They delivered a message to Congress that investment in our highways, bridges, and public transportation systems must not be delayed.”
“The Congress and Administration need to make America’s crumbling transportation infrastructure a priority,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.