Posted on December 14, 2011 12:53 PM
Reauthorization Update: Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out Freight, Safety, and Research Bills
As mentioned in our previous Policy Update on this topic, U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica announced that the House would not introduce a reauthorization bill until next year. Since then, 109 representatives have signed a letter to President Obama urging a robust six-year reauthorization bill. The letter does not identify funding sources.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard four transportation bills on Wednesday, December 14 at 9:00 a.m. CT. These bills focus on the transport of hazardous materials, the federal transportation research program, highway safety, and commercial carrier safety. Each would be combined with the larger Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill reported out of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee in November; the commercial carrier safety bill includes the freight provisions of MAP-21. During today’s markup hearing, the Commerce Committee approved a substitute bill offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg and an amendment offered by Senator Maria Cantwell by a 13-11 vote. These items add a National Freight Transportation Policy, National Freight Infrastructure Investment Grants, and a federal Office of Freight Planning and Development to the commercial carrier safety bill, S.1950. These three initiatives were first introduced in 2010 as the FREIGHT Act.
Seven senators recently offered strategies to identify the $12 billion in offsets required to fully fund MAP-21. These strategies include tapping $3.5 billion in offsets from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, $3.5 billion from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, reclaiming $573 million transferred from the Highway Trust Fund to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and some $5.2 billion in future offshore drilling revenues.
In other news, Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill have introduced bipartisan legislation to provide an additional $35 billion in transportation funds, including $25 billion for highway and bridge programs in 2012 and $10 billion for state infrastructure banks. The proposal would be funded by a two-percent surtax on taxpayers earning more than $1 million annually and by eliminating tax breaks for large oil companies.