Maintaining adequate and stable funding for transportation and streamlining the environmental review process were among the reauthorization priorities outlined by the modal administrators of the Department of Transportation during a House subcommittee hearing.
The House Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held the first of a series of hearings in preparing for another TEA-21 package.
Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) said that retaining the integrity of the Highway Trust Fund and budgetary firewalls, keeping the minimum guarantee program and continuing program flexibility and incentive-based approaches to safety were among his priorities in approaching reauthorization.
New initiatives to be undertaken by the Subcommittee are improving revenue-aligned budget authority (RABA), providing specific directions in improving the environmental review process and providing stable funding for discretionary programs by preventing earmarking.
FHWA Administrator Mary Peters raised the role of the tax break on ethanol-based fuels in relation to the RABA problem. While part of the drop in Highway Trust Fund revenue stems from reduced truck tax receipts, she said, the fact that ethanol consumption in 2001 jumped 28% also contributed. Ethanol is currently taxed 5.3 cents lower than the 18.4 cents per gallon assessed for regular gasoline.
Peters said the use of ethanol and the production of more fuel-efficient automobiles will likely continue in the future. She suggested that mechanisms should be included in reauthorization to study the issue so that possible recommendations or alternatives to the fuel-base system may be offered in the following reauthorization.