Transportation bills ready for center stage

| 7/6/2011

Let the transportation debates begin … well, almost.

U.S. House and Senate lawmakers say they’re on the verge of introducing their respective versions of the next multiyear surface transportation bill. It’s been a game of hurry up and wait for nearly two years since the last long-term program expired in September 2009.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Barbara Boxer, D-CA, is hoping to keep transportation funded at current levels.

On the other hand, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by John Mica, R-FL, has sights set on cutting spending levels.

As the situation continues to heat up, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already made its intentions known by passing a fiscal year budget that trims transportation spending by 36 percent.

Sen. Boxer went on the offensive Wednesday, July 6, telling the press that the proposed House cuts could result in the loss of half-a-million transportation jobs.

“Our long-term prosperity also requires that we invest in our infrastructure,” Boxer stated. “Our transportation systems used to be the best in the world, but investments have not kept up with the needs, and now we are falling behind.”

Mica is expected to make an announcement on Thursday to shed more light on his committee’s version of a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.

The current short-term bill keeping transportation afloat is set to expire on Sept. 30. That date will mark two years since the last long-term program known as SAFETEA-LU expired.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration called for a full six-year reauthorization for transportation programs with a price tag of up to $556 billion.

But Mica and other T&I Committee Republicans are promoting a “do more with less” motto for their draft bill.

More precise dollar amounts from the T&I and EPW proposals will be forthcoming as the bills are introduced.

On behalf of professional truck owners and operators, OOIDA will be fighting for truckers rights in the bill. That includes highway and bridge funding along with positions on regulatory issues such as electronic on-board recorders, cross-border trucking, longer/heavier trucks, safe parking, environmental regs and more.