Mica Letter Addresses Deficit Reduction Proposals for Various Transportation Programs

AASHTO Journal, 21 October 2011

Representative John Mica, R-Florida, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, sent a letter this week to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction addressing possible deficit reduction ideas for programs under his committee’s jurisdiction. The letter specifically responds to proposals set forth by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the Debt Reduction Task Force of the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Obama administration’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.In outlining the responses on behalf of himself and his fellow Republican members of the committee, Mica underscored their support for user-fee financing of various transportation programs.

“These funds include the Highway Trust Fund, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund,” he notes in the letter. “Each of these funds dedicates user fee revenues in infrastructure programs to finance long-range construction and maintenance activities. These funds represent a contract between the government and the user … Therefore, while we support the concept of user fee financing, user fees should not be used to reduce the deficit.”

Mica criticized the proposal by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to increase the federal gas tax by 15-cents per gallon.

“We agree Highway Trust Fund spending should be focused on projects and programs that are truly in the federal interest,” according to Mica. “We do not agree, however, the gas tax should be raised, particularly in the current weak economic environment.”

Mica’s letter likewise details opposition to various aviation-related ideas, including an administration proposal for a $100-per-flight fee and the call by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force to terminate the Essential Air Service program. Mica and his Republican colleagues also raise objections to the administration’s proposed enactment of a new user fee for the inland waterways system.

“Pending further explanation, one must assume the administration is increasing fees and showing it as deficit reduction,” the letter said. “We would object to collecting money for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and not spending it for the intended purpose.”

In addition, letter addresses the American Jobs Act and how some of those provisions might impact programs that fall within the committee’s oversight. “The president proposes an additional $50 billion in funding for highway, highway safety, transit, passenger rail, and aviation activities as a job creation strategy,” according to the letter. “We do not support another stimulus. Instead, Congress should focus on enactment of long-term surface and aviation transportation reauthorization legislation.”

Mica also assesses the administration’s proposal to create a National Infrastructure Bank at $10 billon over the course of a decade.

“We oppose this proposal,” according to the letter. “The long-term surface transportation bill developed by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will instead take the approach of capitalizing state infrastructure banks and leaving the states in control.”

A copy of the five-page letter is available at bit.ly/r1j1gj.

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