Washington Update: Highway Reauthorization Bill Unveiled

Washington Update: Highway Reauthorization Bill Unveiled

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure rolled out details this week of a bill they hope to introduce in the coming days.  The nearly two-hour presentation, led by Chairman Mica (R-FL) included a packed committee room, more than 1,000 individuals participating via conference call and a webcast.  There were presentations from several Members of Congress and an extensive question and answer session.

While MITA is encouraged that the process of highway reauthorization is beginning to move forward, there is great concern over the specific funding levels being proposed by House Republican leadership.

ARTBA, MITA’s national affiliate in Washington DC, issued the following statement:

“We commend House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) for his leadership in moving this long-overdue process forward.  Despite strong political headwinds, he has produced a proposal with much needed reforms that would reduce red tape and bureaucratic hurdles that stand in the way of many important projects critical to our economic vitality.  His goal of expediting product delivery and facilitating public-private partnerships is clearly a step in the right direction.

“We realize it’s difficult to write such an important and far-reaching bill under the constraints of false budget choices.   But every member of the House needs to clearly understand that any highway and transit program bill constrained by the existing revenue stream into the Highway Trust Fund—as proposed in the Ryan budget—would be a sure-fire job killer.  The Ryan approach would also ensure further significant declines in system performance which will negatively impact U.S. business productivity and international competitiveness.

“As the process moves forward, we will work to increase the proposed investment levels.

“We urge the House leadership to schedule a floor vote on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s highway/transit program bill before the August recess and let the House exercise its will.  Doing nothing on this legislation is not an option because that also would guarantee greater unemployment in the transportation construction industry and the economy at-large.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued the following comments:

“Unfortunately, while his legislation tracks the Chamber’s recommendations for reauthorization, it does not in terms of funding.  It is clear the Committee has been constrained by the House-passed budget as the investment levels are unacceptable. Cuts will destroy – rather than support – existing jobs and will not enable creation of the additional jobs needed to put the 16.3% of unemployed workers in the construction industry back to work.  The 35% cut from current funding as laid out in the House budget will be devastating to construction and related industries-materials, equipment, design and engineering. As important, in the long run, disinvestment results in a less competitive economy and a drag on GDP due to underperforming infrastructure.

“Regardless of reforms, allowing a 35% cut in highway and transit investment will affect the availability and condition of infrastructure, the quality of service, and the capacity to handle future growth. Transportation needs will not disappear but conditions will get worse, and the cost to address them will be higher as materials, labor, and land get more expensive.

MITA continues to communicate with ARTBA as well as various members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation to support a fully funded federal program.  You will continue to be updated as progress is made in Washington on these important issues.

For questions, comments or more information about any of these areas, feel free to contact Mike Nystrom at mikenystrom@mi-ita.com, Keith Ledbetter at keithledbetter@mi-ita.com or call the MITA office at (517) 347-8336.