Authorization

In the last few days, Congress has moved forward on two sizable agenda items, the payroll tax cut extension and a long term surface transportation bill. As always, however, the devil is in the details and the details are open for interpretation. 

First, the payroll tax cut extension. House and Senate negotiators are slowly making progress toward a deal on extending the payroll tax cut, which has been extended repeatedly over the past few years. The package also would stave off a massive cut to Medicare and extend long-term...

There was a lot of Capitol Hill activity this week on federal surface transportation authorization legislation, despite the dire predictions from some last week at the Transportation Research Board meeting (that I report about in the latest Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter) that it’s unlikely to amount to much given the politics, Congressional schedule and wide disparity between House and Senate legislation. Here’s a roundup of what’s happened this week.

Even though President Obama gave a brief but notable mention to the nation’s transportation needs in his State of the Union address last week, the prospects of movement on federal surface transportation legislation seem to be small. That was the message from speakers at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last week.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface  transportation programs, and much of the transportation funding states received from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is gone. While some state and territorial governments (“the states”) have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here are the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface transportation programs. The previous legislation, known as SAFETEA-LU, officially expired in 2009 and the programs have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since then, the latest of which expires at the end of March. The primary cause of the delay in approving a SAFETEA-LU successor is of course money. The federal gas tax in recent years has not produced the kinds of revenues it once did and faces an unsustainable future. The Highway Trust Fund, which relies on the gas tax, has required frequent infusions of cash to continue programs. Yet the still struggling economy and other factors have made efforts to seek new revenues to fund transportation politically impossible. While some state governments have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here is my expanded list of the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

Before I depart for the holidays, I thought I would leave you transportation policy fans with a few things to read on those iPads and Kindle Fires you may find under the tree Sunday morning. In what has become an annual tradition, it’s time to clear out the CSG Transportation inbox so we can start fresh in the New Year. There are lots of items below on many of the issues we cover regularly here on the blog including: state...

Two letters from members of Congress made the rounds in Washington this week. While one offers some hope that an endgame could be in sight for new legislation to authorize surface transportation programs, the other hints at the partisan fights that could still lie ahead in the quest for a successor to SAFETEA-LU, the previous authorization bill that officially expired more than two years ago.

I blogged previously about last week’s National Transportation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. You can read my previous postings on the appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and the panel with five former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation here and here. But the forum also featured several other panels with transportation advocates, stakeholders and analysts weighing in on what might be needed to convince the public and their leaders that now is the time to move forward on infrastructure investment. Among the questions they addressed:

  • How can transportation advocates win support for projects and investment in the post-earmark era?
  • What’s the best way to identify the most “shovel-worthy” projects?
  • Can more accountability and transparency in transportation programs help win back a public skeptical of government?
  • Will an injection of politics into transportation policy help or hinder efforts to move forward on infrastructure?
  • What words does the public respond to best as policy makers try to make the case for infrastructure investment?
  • What’s the best way to emphasize the impact of infrastructure on economic development and job creation?
  • How can developing a plan and vision for transportation at all levels of government and demonstrating visible benefits to the public help advance the cause?

Here is some of what the panelists at the Miller Center forum had to say on those issues.

I blogged last week about an appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica at a Washington, D.C. forum hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center during which the Florida Congressman discussed the timetable for introducing his committee’s transportation authorization bill. That forum was notable for a number of other reasons, including a roundtable that brought together five former U.S. secretaries of transportation. Among the issues they touched on: how to restore public confidence in transportation spending and how to define a compelling national purpose for the federal transportation program. Here is some of what they had to say.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) said this week the panel’s long-awaited transportation authorization bill won’t surface until January but vowed that the Congress will act on a multi-year bill before the latest extension of SAFETEA-LU expires at the end of March. Mica made the announcement to transportation policy insiders attending a forum Wednesday in Washington, DC hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, which was webcast live on the Miller Center website. Here’s some of what he told the group.

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