Details for Bush Administration's funding bill released

News AASHTO Journal April 02, 2003
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Detailed reports on the Bush Administration's reauthorization measure to succeed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Cen

Detailed reports on the Bush Administration's reauthorization measure to succeed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) have been circulated. The reauthorization proposal reportedly calls for highway and transit funding of about $242 billion over six years.

The administration proposes a handle for the reauthorization bill of "SAFETEA," which stands for the "Safe and Flexible Transportation Efficiency Act of 2003." The draft bill--slated to be formally sent to the Hill sometime in April--would authorize about $242.3 billion over six years for highways, transit, rail and safety programs; the budget resolution cleared by the Senate sets that figure at $311.5 billion. In the House, the chairman and ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have proposed an even higher figure, $375 billion, and have proposed a gasoline tax increase as a way of covering that cost.

The administration measure calls for drawing down reserves in the Highway Trust Fund, and would maintain a key feature for of TEA-21 called revenue-aligned budget authority (RABA). Under RABA, states receive more funding from the Highway Trust Fund than what was specifically authorized by Congress in legislation if receipts in the fund prove higher than earlier estimates. However, the estimating feature of the current law led to cuts as well as payouts, and the administration bill would eliminate the portion of the RABA formula that estimates future tax receipts.

The administration approach also calls for more streamlining of environmental reviews on proposed projects, and would expand projects eligible for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act program by cutting the price tag on eligible projects from $100 to $50 million.

As recommended in the administration's budget request, a new Infrastructure and Performance and Maintenance Program is proposed at a level of $1 billion annually. The program would provide grants to states for "ready-to-go" highway projects that address congestion and improve infrastructure.

Safety programs and homeland security also are addressed. The administration wants to start a new highway safety improvement program and a blue ribbon commission to study highway safety.

The bill also calls for the creation of a nine-member National Commission on Future Revenue Sources to Support the Highway Trust Fund, which is to report its findings by Sept. 30, 2006.

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