May 19 2011

Shelby: Six-Year Reauthorization Best for SAFE-TEA

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today made the following statement at a Committee hearing on Public Transportation: Priorities and Challenges for Reauthorization.

Excerpts of Shelby’s statement are immediately below in bold, followed by the full text of his prepared remarks:

We are nearly two years beyond the September 2009 expiration date of SAFE-TEA and no closer to legislation that would allow infrastructure investments to move forward

“We need to work together on a reform effort that will promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in public transportation systems across America.  

“I believe that we must institute a system that ensures greater accountability and encourages real investment in maintaining our aging public transportation infrastructure.

“I believe that the best and most responsible course is a full six-year reauthorization that also ensures the long-term solvency of the Trust Fund.  I am deeply concerned about the possibility of a two-year authorization that uses gimmicks to mask the financial difficulties of the Trust Fund.  In fact, Mr. Chairman, I believe that most Americans would agree that a reauthorization bill that leaves the program insolvent or near insolvency upon its expiration is irresponsible. 

“Nevertheless, this country cannot continue to deficit spend its way out of its problems – for infrastructure or anything else.”

 

STATEMENT OF SENATOR RICHARD C. SHELBY

Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

May 19, 2011 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today the Committee will discuss reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill or SAFE-TEA.

“We are nearly two years beyond the September 2009 expiration date of SAFE-TEA and no closer to legislation that would allow infrastructure investments to move forward.  While the Administration has provided some ‘technical assistance’ on reauthorization, they have yet to transmit a comprehensive proposal.  While not surprising, it is disappointing and does not provide the leadership required to move this process forward.  We need to work together on a reform effort that will promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in public transportation systems across America.   I hope that this can happen.

“As we move forward, I believe that there is much that can be done at the Federal Transit Administration to eliminate and reduce many of the duplicative and bureaucratic processes still in place.  ‘State of good repair’ is also an issue that should become a more integral part of the transit program.  I believe that we must institute a system that ensures greater accountability and encourages real investment in maintaining our aging public transportation infrastructure.  By contrast, the current system invests in new construction without any real consideration for how well existing infrastructure is maintained.  This needs to change.

“Setting aside, for a moment, the specific issues related to the transit title of the authorization bill, I want to speak briefly to what I believe is the most significant issue surrounding the reauthorization of SAFETEA – the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.   According to the Congressional Budget Office, expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund will begin to exceed revenues as early as August of next year.  By law, the Highway Trust Fund may not deficit spend.  This restriction simply means that before Congress can write a fiscally responsible reauthorization bill, it must ensure the long-term solvency of the Trust Fund.

“While some have advocated for a full six-year reauthorization at current levels, others have promoted a two-year authorization with incremental increases.  The length of the reauthorization is not as important, however, as the need to pay for all of this spending.  I believe that the best and most responsible course is a full six-year reauthorization that also ensures the long-term solvency of the Trust Fund.  I am deeply concerned about the possibility of a two-year authorization that uses gimmicks to mask the financial difficulties of the Trust Fund.  In fact, Mr. Chairman, I believe that most Americans would agree that a reauthorization bill that leaves the program insolvent or near insolvency upon its expiration is irresponsible.

“Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.  Infrastructure spending is essential to our long term economic stability and growth.  Nevertheless, this country cannot continue to deficit spend its way out of its problems – for infrastructure or anything else.  Therefore, we must begin this discussion with the realization that difficult decisions are going to have to be made.  Only then can we provide the certainty needed by all interested parties.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”