Well, it has started – finally. On Thursday, July 7, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, John Mica, web cast a presentation outlining a new six-year transportation bill that will soon be introduced in the House. Now, the good news is that it does not have a snazzy new name yet like SAFETEA-LU, but it could be cast as POOR-YOU because it proposes to cut transportation funding significantly over the next six years. Not to worry though, even though it proposes to spend $230 billion over the next six years – somewhere around a 30 percent cut over current spending – the overall program is not going to feel bad because of all of the other benefits in the proposal – and that is a promise!
Now, there are some things in the proposal that make sense; these are things that need and should happen regardless of the funding issues…things like:
- Better leveraging and maximizing the value of limited federal resources,
- Streamlining the project approval process,
- Reforming our federal transportation programs,
- Reducing the federal bureaucracy,
- Improving programs that don’t work while building upon programs that work well, and
- Providing flexibility to states to address their own unique, critical infrastructure needs.
While these are all important things and should be pursued, they will not improve the overall condition of our public transportation infrastructure – not when they are combined with a close to 30 percent decrease in funding! I don’t want to even imagine what our transportation systems will look like in six years if this proposal becomes law – no amount of flexibility is going to help!
The proposed bill will be out shortly and it will be interesting to see the reaction it gets. Already, several of the single-issue public interest groups are urging people to oppose the elimination of their programs – as they should. I suspect no one will be in favor of this proposal, but no one wants to raise taxes either. Reality can be painful – especially when it impacts you and yours.
The Senate is threatening to introduce its own bill. This one could be a two-year bill and include no increase over the cost of inflation. I already like this one better. Sometimes your choice is not between good and bad – it is between bad and worse. That is what this feels like to me.
A full version of Chairman Mica’s proposal can be found on the SEMCOG Web site at www.semcog.org under Hot Topics on the home page. Check back frequently as the games begin!