By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA
What happened: The proposal introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and other Republican leaders is a counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan. It calls for a new 5-year, $360 billion surface transportation reauthorization law. It also appears to feature a $65 billion increase in highway funding over five years–averaging $13 billion annually–while slightly reducing public transit spending from current levels. The plan lacks the necessary details for a full analysis. Capito said the plan conveys they are “ready to sit down and get to work” with the Democrats.
What’s included: The GOP proposal would prioritize maintaining existing formula and discretionary grant programs for surface transportation programs and devotes funding to the following areas:
- Roads and bridges: $299 billion
- Broadband infrastructure: $65 billion
- Public transit: $61 billion
- Airports: $44 billion
- Drinking water & wastewater: $35 billion
- Rail: $20 billion
- Ports & inland waterways: $17 billion
- Water storage: $14 billion
- Safety: $13 billion
The plan also calls for modernizing the permitting process and removing regulatory burdens, and includes reauthorization funding suggestions plus supplemental spending, while the Biden plan only proposed supplemental spending. The administration is expected to release details on its reauthorization bill at a later date. ARTBA will produce a comparison of the two plans as soon as possible.
Pay-fors: Republicans propose fully offsetting the costs of their infrastructure plan by re-purposing unspent federal funds, including COVID-19 relief, and ensuring all users, including electric vehicle drivers, pay for system use.
What’s next: The EPW Committee is expected to move the highway policy portion of surface transportation legislation in May. By proposing funding levels for public transportation and highway safety programs, the GOP proposal will spur further conversations among other relevant Senate committees. The current surface transportation law is set to expire Sept. 30. The GOP plan is a step toward finding common ground on a new highway/public transportation authorization law that will require a 60-vote threshold to advance in the Senate.
ARTBA’s take: Statement from CEO Dave Bauer.