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House Leaders to Introduce 5-Year Transportation Bill

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, along with Chairman Mica of the House Infrastructure and Finance Committee and other congressmen, held a press conference November 17, 2011, to announce the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. To be introduced as H.R. 7, the Act would provide a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill partially financed through expanded oil and gas drilling. This expansion would end the current ban on new offshore drilling, as well as expand oil shale drilling and open portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. This announcement continues a discussion dating back to September of this year, when House leaders first suggested linking increased transportation spending to expanded domestic oil and gas drilling.

On November 30, Representative Mica announced that his committee and the House would not act on a transportation reauthorization bill until January 2012. Representative Mica had previously indicated that the bill would move by the end of the calendar year, but House leadership now believes that there will be insufficient time to consider the bill in December. According to the House Majority Leader's calendar, the House will reconvene from the winter holidays on Tuesday, January 17, 2012. Federal transportation programs expire on March 31, 2012.

In addition to the energy initiatives, the Act would remove the transportation enhancements requirement, streamline the review and permitting process, consolidate federal transportation programs, encourage greater private participation in transportation finance, enhance safety programs, and contain no earmarks. Many of these initiatives are also included in the U.S. Senate's reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

Although CMAP supports the enactment and implementation of a long-term transportation bill with adequate, sustainable revenues, it is of concern that the House proposal strays from the nation's traditional transportation funding principles. Since 1956, the users of the transportation system have paid directly for its construction and maintenance through gasoline and related excise taxes deposited into the Highway Trust Fund. Gasoline and related taxes have a fairly direct nexus to travel behavior; revenues from domestic energy production, on the other hand, have a looser connection between costs paid and benefits received.

CMAP recognizes that our current gasoline and excise tax revenues have proven inadequate to maintain transportation funding at current levels. GO TO 2040 recommends generating new transportation revenues through more efficient user fees, such as congestion pricing. New fees should be structured to better reflect the actual maintenance and operational needs of the transportation system, as well as the costs of congestion.