By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
House Budget Committee Republicans performed a 180-degree turn March 16 by approving an FY 2017 budget resolution that recommends the exact opposite surface transportation policies from what Congress overwhelmingly approved just over three months ago.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act highway/transit reauthorization law enacted Dec. 4, 2015, expands the federal role in delivering transportation solutions. The measure also provides another one-time patch to temporarily stabilize the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF) permanent revenue deficit by transferring $70 billion to the trust fund from the federal General Fund.
The House Budget Committee’s spending plan for the next fiscal year, however, calls for requiring HTF-spending to be constrained to current revenues and a reduced federal responsibility in the transportation area, which would somehow free “states to make their infrastructure decisions.”
ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane pointed out the inconsistency of the House GOP budget proposal with the FAST Act and reminded committee members that 15 of the 22 Republican members of the panel voted for the FAST Act. Read Ruane’s letter.
The policy prescriptions included in congressional budget resolutions do not carry the force of law and there are serious doubts the House will be able to approve a budget this year due to a push by conservative members to cut federal spending beyond the two-year budget deal struck in 2015 by President Obama and House and Senate GOP leaders. Further clouding prospects for the House plan, the Senate is not expected to act on an FY 2017 budget plan and will adhere to the spending parameter put in place last year’s agreement.