AASHTO Journal, 22 February 2013
The men who President Obama tapped to solve the nation’s deficit problems in 2010 were back in Washington, D.C. this week with a four-step process to reduce the federal deficit by $2.4 trillion over 10 years that includes balancing transportation spending and revenues in the next surface transportation bill.
Unfortunately, the latest proposal by former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson lacks any specifics on how to match transportation spending and revenue, although it does outline some principles lawmakers should consider as they work to solve the federal deficit, such as “protect the disadvantaged,” “reform the tax code,” and “focus on the long-term.”
“The problem is real, the solutions are painful, and there is no easy way out,” the duo wrote. “What we are calling for is by no means perfect, but it could serve as a mark for real bipartisan negotiations on a plan to reduce the deficit and grow the economy.”
Simpson and Bowles co-chaired President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, which included raising the federal fuel tax by 15 cents among its debt-reduction proposals (see related AASHTO Journal story). The men now lead a group called “Campaign to Fix the Debt.”
The Simpson-Bowles four-step process calls for lawmakers to reduce defense and non-defense discretionary spending and for lawmakers to increase revenue collections as steps one and two, which they acknowledge Congress has done.
Step three calls for tax and entitlement reforms and additional spending cuts. Step four recommends fully funding the social security and transportation trust funds to make those funds solvent, as well as reforming health care programs to shore up Medicare.
The latest Simpson-Bowles outline is available here.