By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
The 2016 Republican platform, approved earlier this week at the party’s convention in Cleveland, calls for a winnowing of the federal role in delivering transportation solutions—a clear departure from the GOP platforms dating back to 2000.
Specifically, it proposes to phase out the federal public transportation program and more than $2 billion the document claims is spent on non-motorized vehicle purposes, transportation improvements on federal lands, ferry boats, educational activities, and historic and cultural initiatives. While the platform recommends eliminating these expenditures, it does not specify as to how the resulting resources should be utilized.
It does, however, acknowledge that “over, time, additional revenue will be needed to expand the carrying capacity of roads and bridges” and, in response, pledges “we will remove legal roadblocks to public-private partnership agreements that can save the taxpayer’s money and bring outside investment to meet a community’s needs. Furthermore, citing increases in transportation funding at the state level, the platform states “we oppose a further increase in the federal gas tax.” Even though most Republicans have opposed or been non-committal on proposals to increase the federal motor fuels tax increases in the past 16 years, the last four GOP platforms were silent on the issue.
On a positive note, the Republican platform calls for reforms to the National Environmental policy act which it says “can delay and drive up costs for transportation projects.”
Platforms are typically non-binding and largely political documents which attempt to articulate each political party’s vision for the future—a point illustrated by congressional passage of the 2015 five-year surface transportation program reauthorization legislation. More than 70 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate supported the measure which increased public transportation investment, retained all of the programs the GOP 2016 platform cites as objectionable, and cut by 70 percent funding for a program designed to facilitate public-private partnerships on transportation improvement projects.
ARTBA will provide a similar report once the 2016 Democratic platform is approved next week.