LaHood Highlights President’s Proposed Transportation Budget and Touts Bipartisan Senate Authorization Bill

On the day President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal was released and as Congress prepares to debate two competing surface transportation authorization bills this week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood used a conference call budget briefing to both highlight the President’s own authorization proposal and to restate the administration’s preference between House and Senate authorization proposals.

“An America built to last needs a strong infrastructure program and that’s why the President’s budget will improve America’s highways, railways, transit networks and will continue to ensure that these systems are safe,” LaHood said on the call.

The Secretary said the President’s transportation proposal has three broad goals:

  • Creating jobs and investing in infrastructure;
  • Spurring innovation across transportation systems; and
  • Maintaining a focus on safety

The President’s 2013 $3.8 trillion budget proposes to spend $476 billion over the next six years, or roughly $80 billion annually. That’s roughly $30 billion more than the House and Senate’s surface transportation authorization bills would spend.

Among the other transportation numbers in the President’s budget and authorization proposal:

  • $74 billion in discretionary and mandatory budget resources for the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2013, a 2 percent increase over 2012.
  • $50 billion in immediate investments to support critical infrastructure projects, improving roads, bridges, transit systems, border crossings, railways, and runways.
  • $305 billion for road and bridge improvements over six years, a 34 percent increase over the previous authorization (2005’s SAFETEA-LU)
  • $108 billion for transit over six years, a 105 percent increase over SAFETEA-LU
  • $2.5 billion in 2013 as part of a $47 billion, six-year investment in a national high-speed rail network
  • $15.2 billion for Federal Aviation Administration programs, including more than $1 billion for modernization of air traffic control
  • $17 billion for Federal Highway Administration safety projects
  • $7.5 billion over six years for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to promote seatbelt use, prevent drunk driving and reduce traffic fatalities, including $330 million for DOT’s ongoing campaign against distracted driving
  • $4.8 billion for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure commercial truck and bus companies maintain high operational standards
  • $276 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

“All of this is fully paid for,” LaHood said. “President Obama is proposing that we take the money that we’re saving from winding down our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using half of it to pay down our debt and the other half on a six-year transportation bill that lets American workers do some nation building right here at home.”

As noted, the President’s authorization proposal differs markedly from the authorization bill proposed by House Republicans and the bipartisan Senate bill, which are both expected to be considered this week. It differs in terms of its length, overall spending level and proposed funding source. Still, LaHood left little doubt which of the two Congressional proposals the Administration prefers.

“Obviously, we think the Senate bill is about as strong a showing of bipartisanship as we’ve seen in a long time as it relates to transportation and we’re grateful for Senator (Barbara) Boxer and Senator (James) Inhofe working so closely together to make this happen,” he said. “The House of Representatives is debating a bill this week that pretty much hollows out our safety agenda, hollows out everything that we’ve tried to do in terms of livable and sustainable communities the last three years.”

LaHood encouraged those with “sufficient heartburn” about either bill to make their feelings known to their members of Congress and noted that there is still an opportunity to change both bills by amendment this week.