As noted in previous posts, early 2012 is to be the time when the U.S. House and Senate move forward on authorization legislation for a new transportation funding bill. That time has arrived, although given the sharp contrasts in the proposals, there are still plenty of skeptics out there as to whether or not the task can be accomplished.
Prior to the new year, the Senate began hearings on a two year bill that would, for the most part, hold funding levels constant (S. 1813). In order to keep funding constant, they have had to find $13 billion which reports indicate will come from the recently announced cuts in defense spending. Aside from funding, there are also other issues of note for locals, including changes that would impact regional planning agencies.
The House, which will begin hearings this week on its own version has yet to release the entire bill although a summary is available. It appears to be a far cry from full funding providing $260 billion over a five year period. The proposal would also give more authority and flexibility to state DOT’s as to how the money can be spent seemingly shutting out local and regional decision making. But perhaps the most controversial idea in the proposal is that additional revenue would come from funds secured through oil and gas drilling. Hence the name of the House proposal, the “The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.”
Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller from Macomb County is a member of the House committee that will hear the bill. Members are urged to contact her, as well their own congressional member about the importance of funding for transportation (see attached document below). Also, speak with other members of the Michigan congressional delegation that hold important positions in the House. In particular, Congressman Dave Camp is chair of the all important Ways and Means Committee. Congressman Sander Levin serves with Camp as a member of that committee and Congressman Fred Upton is chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. All of these committees will play key roles in the upcoming debate.
Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or by e-mail.