Congresswoman Corrine Brown made the following statement:
"This is a terrible start to a process that used to be bipartisan, ironically, from a committee that used to be bipartisan. Beyond a doubt, this is the worst surface transportation bill I have seen in all of my years of service. In the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, "this is the worst and most partisan transportation bill I have ever seen during my 35 years of public service and is also the most anti-safety bill (as well).'
Committee Republicans' refusal to work with Democrats in crafting the bill may very well have cost the committee the opportunity to deliver this much needed relief to the states and to the traveling public. The bill, in fact, is a five year bill with only two years of funding! It also follows the Republican mantra of abolishing protective regulations, and turning everything over to the private sector so that they can turn a profit at the expense of the traveling and working public.
In fact, there are so many problems with this bill that it would take all day to address them, some of which include:
Drastically cutting Amtrak's funding by $308 million;
Weakening worker protections for rail, transit, and hazardous materials workers; (and decreasing funding for HAZMAT protections, which work to prevent incidents like the T2 chemical lab explosion that resulted from an inadequate reactor cooling system. in Jacksonville in December, 2007);
Failing to provide a hiring preference for veterans in highway and transit construction contracts;
Slashing the federal government's role in safety oversight and further weakens safety through numerous exemptions and tolerances;
Mandating greater utilization of the private sector in highway and transit projects and subsidizes privatization with federal funds;
Undermining the National Environmental Policy Act and the application of federal environmental laws to highway, public transportation, and rail projects; Delegates broad authority to the States with little or no federal oversight of state use of federal funds;
Consolidating or eliminates numerous highway, highway safety, and public transportation programs;
Failing to strengthen Buy America protections for highway, transit or rail projects;
Extending surface transportation programs for the remainder of FY 2012 and provides a four-year authorization for these programs, yet does NOT identify the source of additional revenues outside of the Highway Trust Fund necessary to provide this level of funding.
Certainly, at a time when our nation's unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, an adequately funded six year surface transportation reauthorization bill is crucial. And what our country needs is a Surface Transportation bill that strengthens our infrastructure, provides quality jobs, and serves as a tool to put America back on a path toward long-term economic growth, not one that drags us in the wrong direction by drastically underfunding our system.
Transportation and Infrastructure funding is absolutely critical to the nation, and, if properly funded, serves as a tremendous economic and job creator. In fact, Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics show that for every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure, 44,000 jobs are created, as is $6.2 billion in economic activity.
Indeed, our nation's long term prosperity requires that we invest in our infrastructure. In the not so distant past, our transportation system used to be the best in the world, but investments have not kept up with the needs, and the U.S. continues to fall behind other nations. China, for example, currently spends nearly 9% of its GDP on infrastructure, while we are spending a meager 2%. Clearly, this lack of investment has led to a crumbling of our infrastructure system as a whole, leading the American Society of Civil Engineers, in their 2009 "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" to give the United States a grade of D.
I sincerely hope that as this bill moves to the floor and to conference with the Senate, we can add some sanity to this process and send a bill to the President that benefits the travelling public more than the businesses that fill Republican campaign accounts. I certainly hope that this transportation bill is Dead on Arrival in the Senate, and I will be working during this process to obtain proper funding levels for the transportation and infrastructure system throughout our nation."