The budget resolution released by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) this week called for a 31 percent reduction in transportation spending from a current level of $93 billion to $64 billion in FY 2012. The resolution makes clear what Transportation and Infrastructure chair John Mica (R-FL) has been saying for some time:
that the Highway Trust Fund will not be getting additional revenues and the surface transportation reauthorization bill will have to get by without subsidies from the General Fund, as has happened three times over the past three years.
Ryan noted in his summary of the bill that “Over the past decade highway spending has mostly exceeded the gas tax revenues that finance the fund, because gas tax levels leveled off while spending grew.”
If there is any upside to the federal budget dilemma it’s that a funding strategy based on lending instead of just spending — like the America Fast Forward program — becomes even more attractive amid the calls for spending restraints. In this climate everyone is looking for ways to spread limited transportation funding around to more communities, and this could mean that bad budget times are good times for pitching idea of the federal government as a lender and not just a spender.
Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mica knew Ryan’s budget was in the offing, which explains their enthusiasm for America Fast Forward as the right idea at the right time in Washington DC.