Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) yesterday introduced legislation to collect unspent federal funds from orphan transportation projects and use them to reduce the federal deficit. The Memphis Congressman spoke on the House floor last week about his initiative.
"During these tough economic times, we should not use a sledgehammer for a job that requires a scalpel," said Congressman Cohen. "Instead of slashing transportation programs that are vital to job creation and economic growth, we need to carefully examine the budget and eliminate all wasteful spending. This legislation is an example of how Congress can reduce the deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars without threatening our nation's economic growth and competitiveness."
The Surface Transportation Earmark Rescission, Savings and Accountability Act of 2011 would rescind unspent funds authorized for federal transportation projects requested by members of Congress that date back to 1978. The measure would also require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to submit an annual report to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, identifying each project authorized under the high priority projects programs of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) that has inactive funds or has been completed in the previous fiscal year.
Specifically, the measure would rescind:
* All High Priority Project program funds authorized by SAFETEA-LU that were not designated for use on a specific project;
* All highway projects designated in TEA 21 that have not obligated at least 10 percent of the funds authorized for the project;
* All unobligated amounts allocated for member designated projects under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA); and
* All abandoned project funding from sections of the Federal Highway Act of 1978, Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1981, Highway Improvement Act of 1982, the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987, and 23 USC 320.