by Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx today outlined the Obama Administration’s FY 2017 budget request for increased transportation investment—particularly transit and rail projects—at a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.  The Administration’s plan includes the modest highway and public transportation investment increases contained in the FAST Act, coupled with nearly $20 billion in additional spending on transit, rails and community development initiatives. To help pay for the cost of these additional investments, the Administration is proposing a $10.25 tax per barrel of petroleum produced in the U.S. and additional revenue generation through corporate tax reform.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) told Foxx:

“I am also disappointed that just three months after Congress passed the FAST Act, the budget proposes an entirely new 10-year, $495 billion ‘21st Century Clean Transportation Plan’ on top of the FAST Act. It is paid for by a new $10.25 per barrel tax on crude oil and other unnamed business tax reforms. I am perplexed why the Administration waited to put forth this plan now when Congress debated and passed a multi-year transportation reauthorization, which the President signed into law, just three months ago.

“It is particularly astonishing that after ignoring Congress’ repeated requests to engage with this Administration on developing the necessary reforms to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, the Department has finally proposed a source of funding, though unrealistic, as this Administration enters its final year.”

While the Administration’s budget proposal is a step in the right direction and may provide cover for future administrations to be more forthright with Highway Trust Fund revenue proposals, the per barrel of oil tax is not expected to receive consideration this year.

It is important to remember that while the FAST Act authorizes highway and transit investment levels for five years, those funds must still be secured in the annual appropriations process. ARTBA will continue to work with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to ensure highway and transit investment levels are funded, at the very least, at FAST Act authorized levels.