While Congress continues to debate the federal budget for the remainder of FY 2011, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his blueprint for a budget resolution for FY 2012 and beyond.
Entitled, “Path to Prosperity, Restoring America’s Promise,” the proposal addresses every aspect of the federal budget from domestic spending to entitlement programs to taxes. For transportation, the blueprint calls for significant reductions in spending with total budget authority decreasing by 31% from current levels.
Ryan's outline suggests that the Highway Trust Fund not receive any additional revenues from either a user-fee increase or general-fund transfer, and that the surface transportation reauthorization bill will have to reflect these reduced funding levels. Ryan's summary says that, “highway spending has mostly exceeded the gas-tax revenues that finance the fund, because gas-tax levels leveled off while spending grew. Spending, meanwhile, has increasingly been diverted to non-highway projects, such as bike trails and museums, and politicized through earmarks such as the Bridge to Nowhere.”
The budget proposal suggests that Congress can keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent without additional general-fund transfers or increases in the gasoline tax by consolidating dozens of separate highway programs identified by the General Accountability Office as duplicative.
This proposal is the first shot in the budget wars that will be fought later this year in addressing the nation’s difficult deficit situation. While the budget resolution is not legislation, the Senate also will fashion its own version that will have to be reconciled with the House-passed version. Although the budget resolution is non-binding, it does present the blueprint that governs future budgetary decisions by the Congress. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) has already indicated that he intends to write a surface transportation reauthorization bill that will be constrained by the revenue currently coming into the Highway Trust Fund.