Working deep into the night, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed the American Energy and Infrastructure Act by a 29-24 count. The measure, however, is already receiving deep criticism from industry advocate groups.
The bill authorizes $260 billion over five years, but it also eliminates the Mass Transit Account with a new Alternative Transportation Account. The House Ways and Means Committee announced on Feb. 2 that 2.86 cents per gallon of the federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes currently going to the Mass Transit Account will now flow into the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund, including any FY 2012 taxes that have already been collected and credited to the Mass Transit Account. A transfer of $40 billion from the general fund would support the Alternative Transportation Account.
The move created a social-media uproar, with Transportation For America tweeting the loudest criticism.
“The Alternative Transportation Account is not a trust fund [and does not have] protected revenues in any way,” Transportation For America tweeted. “So there is money for transit, but it could be stolen for anything or zeroed out in yearly appropriations. The money is not real.”
According to Transportation For America, more than 600 groups and “notable individuals” have signed a letter opposing the House maneuver, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, governors and state DOTs.
“It’s just categorically false that this preserves transit funding in any meaningful way,” Transportation For America tweeted. “It’s simply not true. Don’t buy it.”
The House Natural Resources Committee also met on Feb. 2 and passed three energy bills that will be incorporated into the transportation bill. Two of the bills would require the Interior Department to expand leasing opportunities in parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Gulf of Mexico. A third calls for the promotion of shale oil production on public lands. The bills would provide less than $10 billion in new trust fund revenue, far short of the $60 billion that is needed to fully fund the American Energy and Infrastructure Act.