July 07, 2011

Committee Democrats Respond to Republican Surface Transportation Proposal

Washington, D.C.– Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today unveiled the framework for a controversial multi-year surface transportation proposal to reauthorize our Nation’s highway, highway safety, transit, and rail programs.  Democratic leaders on the Committee responded at an afternoon news conference on Capitol Hill.

“While we have yet to see much of the details of this legislation, based on the funding levels alone, it appears that this bill can best be called the ‘Republican Road to Ruin’ because it would take our Nation in the wrong direction,” said U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Democratic Ranking Member on the full Committee.  “The dramatic, mindless cuts proposed to surface transportation programs will destroy nearly 500,000 American jobs next year alone, undermine our Nation’s long-term economic competitiveness, and jeopardize our economic recovery.”

The most recent multi-year surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU) expired in September 2009, and the program has continued to operate through temporary extensions.  Breaking with Committee precedent and tradition, the current proposal was drafted by the Majority with no consultation or input from the Minority.  Rahall warned the “my way or the highway” approach in developing the current reauthorization could undermine efforts to enact a long-term surface authorization.

“I have had the privilege of serving on this Committee for 34 years now – my entire tenure in Congress – and this is the first time the Majority and Minority stand apart,” said Rahall.  “We have always worked together to develop bipartisan surface transportation bills that had the overwhelming support of the Committee and the House.  Unfortunately, the Republicans are developing a bill – a bill we still have not yet seen – designed to pass the House with only 218 Republican votes.  This approach breaks the best traditions of our Committee, and is a missed opportunity to enact a long-term surface transportation bill.”

By cutting $109 billion in surface transportation investments, the Republican bill ignores the well documented and long neglected infrastructure deficit.  China currently spends nine percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year on infrastructure investments.  Indian spends five percent of its GDP on infrastructure.  The United States only invest 1.9 percent.  While construction unemployment hovers around 16%, Republicans are proposing to slash these family wage jobs by one third.

“While our competitors are moving forward, this bill will leave us stuck in a ditch, putting American businesses at a disadvantage with companies around the world,” said Rahall.

“America must not be left behind as the rest of the world makes significant investments in 21st century transportation systems. We need a transportation plan that puts Americans back to work, improves our crumbling infrastructure, and helps get our economy back on track,” said U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Democratic Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.  “Today, the Republicans are offering a plan that slashes the budget for critical transportation and infrastructure spending in this county. Their proposal jeopardizes the safety of our traveling public, will cost us nearly 500,000 jobs, and puts us at an economic disadvantage with our competitor nations. The Republicans prefer to protect tax loopholes and cuts that add tremendously to the national debt, yet won’t make needed investments that rebuild crumbling infrastructure and put people back to work. We need robust investment and this proposal does not measure up.”

AUDIO FROM PRESS CONFERENCE AVAILABLE AT: /sites/transportation.creativengine.com/files/PC_20110707.wma

ATTACHMENT #1: Letter from Ranking Member Rahall and Subcommittee Ranking Member DeFazio to Chairman Mica and Subcommittee Chairman Duncan (attachment)

ATTACHMENT #2: Republican Budget Resolution – FY 2012 Highway Cuts Destroy More Than 490,000 Jobs (attachment)

ATTACHMENT #3: 6-Year Estimated Highway Program Cuts Under the Republican Proposal (attachment)