Well, April 8 is scheduled to be the next federal budget showdown. In the last week, there seems to be more talk of a government shutdown on April 8 unless there is an agreement to radically slash the 2011 budget by something in the neighborhood of $60 billion. No less an authority than Congressman John Mica, Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee was quoted last week as saying, “…after April 8, my advice and counsel would be, grab a hold of your shorts and hang on. It might be a wild ride.”
Well, assuming we get through the 2011 budget – the federal fiscal year began October 1 – almost six months ago for you that are counting – 2012 will be no easier. Last week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee released a 30-page document that outlines their approach to the 2012 budget, including reauthorization of the transportation bill. Some things are evident from reading this report:
- The committee is supportive of eliminating transportation programs that no longer support the federal interest (small federal programs are gone!).
- They support developing new federal transportation bill that has keeps the highway trust fund solvent with no additional monies coming from the general fund (translation – this means the new bill will have less money in it!).
- They will consider expanding and improving the existing federal loan programs but not provide new money.
- The amount of transit funding in the administration’s proposed budget is 112 percent over current authorized funding levels (it is toast!).
- The next federal transportation bill will improve the project delivery process so we can do more with less (where have we heard that before?).
April 8th is the next showdown date – but it appears it will not be the last. We need our congressional leaders to establish a direction that is both long-term and consistent – a direction that can and will be supported by legislative action to ensure we are going in the same direction. Developing a new federal program would be a good start – at least we would know what direction we were going in and could plan accordingly.