Cross-border program funding on chopping block, again

| 2/23/2009

The funding for the cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico is close to being yanked by Congress for the second time.

The U.S. Senate is expected to take on the omnibus appropriations bill, which contains a provision cutting off funding from the pilot program.

Theoretically, the 2009 appropriations funding bills were due the first of October this past year. The money allocated in the appropriations legislation funds government agencies. The agencies have been running thanks to continuing resolutions because the 2009 appropriations funding legislation has not been passed or signed by the president. To read more on the appropriations process, click here.

So, instead of passing each of the remaining appropriations bills separately, they have been rolled into one massive bill. The Senate is expected to begin deliberations on the bill as soon as by the end of this week.

This past summer when the Senate began debating the transportation appropriations legislation, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, included a bill that will cut off funding for the cross-border program with Mexico.

When he did that, one thing became abundantly clear: Sen. Dorgan doesn’t forget things easily.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation sidestepped legislation he sponsored in 2007 that cut off funding to the cross-border program with Mexico, he wasn’t pleased.

The DOT’s legal team determined the program could continue based on a very narrow interpretation of one word in the legislation.

Dorgan’s amendment in the 2008 appropriations legislation stated: “None of the funds made available under this Act may be used to establish a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexico-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico.”

The DOT attorneys zeroed in on the word “establish” and said that since the program started in September of 2007, and not after the legislation was signed into law, the program could continue.

Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, wasn’t pleased and defended the intent behind his legislation to no avail. The program continues to this day.

He obviously is trying to prevent the same word game end-around on his legislative attempt to cut off funding of the program in the 2009 transportation appropriations legislation that is currently in the works.

Dorgan’s amendment, if signed into law with the full transportation appropriations bill, prohibits the DOT from spending any money, either directly or indirectly, to “establish, implement, continue, promote, or in any way permit a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones …”

The amendment goes on to cut the funding of ongoing programs, “… including continuing, in whole or in part, any such program that was initiated prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor