WASHINGTON, DC.- U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has stated that the newly released draft of his committee’s multi-year surface transportation funding reauthorization proposal will be “restricted” to the $35 billion in annual revenue generated by taxes.
“We in this committee must comply with the rules of the House of Representatives – and Rule 21 states that we can only authorize programs within the limits of available funds,” he said in a hearing on Capitol Hill today. “That’s what we have to deal with.”
Mica noted that his committee also wants to pass a six-year surface transportation bill because, in his words, a two-year funding package would leave the highway trust fund “headed for bankruptcy.”
He also stressed that “streamlining” the approval process for all transportation infrastructure construction projects will be critical to getting “more value” out of existing revenues.
“The two big items in this bill deal with financing issues and streamlining the bureaucratic process,” Mica said. “The challenge is to work within the existing $35 billion in current funding. We think we can get double the value for that money by streamlining the project approval process.”
Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Chairman of the highway subcommittee, noted that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) said it takes 15 years on average to bring a highway project from planning to completion. “All other developing nations conduct such projects in half the time,” he pointed out. “If we streamline the process, we could do twice as many projects in the same amount of time.”
Mica added that working within the highway trust fund’s current $35 billion in annual revenues would ensure all of the funds get spent.
“Even if we could authorize $100 billion per year, it does no good to anyone if it isn’t spent,” he stressed. “Approximately $63 billion was authorized for transportation infrastructure projects within the President’s ‘stimulus bill’ two years ago. As of today, 39% of those funds remain in the Treasury. We have a distinct problem getting this money out and putting it to work.”