Obama’s Double Dare on Highway/Transit

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By: TurnerGPA Staff

“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home,” Obama said last night in his SOTU.

A senior administration official has confirmed the White House wants roughly $200 billion of the war savings to be used to pay for a long-term highway/transit reauthorization bill.

This won’t help solve the deficit problem because it takes funds that would have been spent (borrowed) on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and redirects them to transportation. But it would solve the bookkeeping problem Congress faces in trying to pass a reauthorization within the constraints of the Budget Control Act. It may require a waiver of the House rule against any further transfers of general revenue to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), however.

In the meantime, Senate Finance Committee staff indicate they may have identified as much as $17 billion that could be used to help underwrite the costs of the Boxer 2-year Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) reauthorization. As usual, they are not offering any details.

The Senate Banking/Housing/Urban Affairs Committee plans to mark up the transit title of the Boxer bill next week.

The following are rumors, but are certainly worth noting.

Senator Boxer has been in discussions this week with the White House about how to move her 2-year highway/transit bill. President Obama’s promise in the SOTU to streamline project processing through Executive Branch action to revise transportation regulations could help deflect criticism that the Boxer bill won’t last long enough for its proposed process improvements to be implemented.

It is possible the Senate Finance Committee may mark up the revenue title for the Boxer bill as soon as next week, although this has not been confirmed. That would claim offsets for the Boxer bill before final choices are made about how to pay for the payroll tax/UI/Medicare doc fix bill. The Senate Finance revenue title could include language that would apply some of the war savings to transportation. The White House wants a longer reauthorization timeframe, but will settle for the Boxer 2-yr if that’s all that can pass.

Republicans are not likely to support action to apply war savings to anything other than deficit reduction or other defense programs, but such action by Senate Finance would put pressure on the House to come up with a viable alternative to pay for the Mica 5-year proposal.

The President indicated he wanted to use half the peace dividend to rebuild America, but so far that is being interpreted to mean solely surface transportation – not Clean Water Act or other infrastructure.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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One Response to “Obama’s Double Dare on Highway/Transit”

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Surface Transportation is an area that potentially contributes to a reduction in gasoline use, increased availability of workers for even low wage employment; a potential increase in monies spent on food, housing, local small business goods and services- just by reducing the enormous expenditures on fuel per household. In many Cities mass transit has failed- become so unreliable that household wage earners are forced to drive to work and other local tasks. To the extent that it involves new construction of facilities and systems or expanding systems such as light rail, monorail, or subways it will benefit manufacturing and constriction sectors too. Many Cities have seen upticks in revitalization and renewal. The urban centered lifestyle is consistent with public transportation and minimized driving–the trend towards living and working in the urban cores. Surface transportation monies that support capital equipment acquisitions will probably be ultimately spent overseas in large measure, but the incentives to US based production will do nothing but good– create possibilities for new market entrants in production of rolling stock, parts and services. The Peace Dividend can have many possible impacts but mass transit improvement is one that will factor through the economy in visible and fairly immediate ways.


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