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The Hill - This Time It's Different: A Transportation Bill for America's Future

Op-Ed

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In February 2011, Chairman John Mica (R-FL) brought his Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to Columbus, Ohio as a part of his series of hearings that sought to hear public official and stakeholders' ideas for improving and reforming our nation's surface transportation programs. What we heard time and time again was that that regulatory overreach and redundant spending programs were crippling our economy, stifling job creation, and wasting our limited federal resources. Businesses, state and local officials, and transportation experts pleaded for us to reform transportation programs, cut through bureaucratic red tape, and help them get people back to work.

One year later, we are poised to vote on the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, which is a reauthorization and reform of federal transportation programs, combined with an expansion of domestic energy production. This critical initiative will help build our nation's infrastructure, reform transportation programs, ease rising gas prices, strengthen the economy, and create jobs here in America.

This bill authorizes approximately $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway, transit and safety programs, consistent with current funding levels. This will provide long-term stability for states to undertake major infrastructure projects. The bill also includes provisions to improve programs for freight and passenger rail transportation, and calls for funds collected for maintaining the nation's harbors to be invested for that purpose and not redirected for other unrelated government expenditures.

The bill removes barriers to private-sector job creation and pays for infrastructure improvements through expanded American energy production without increasing taxes. By lowering government barriers to American energy production and reforming the process by which Washington funds infrastructure projects, the bill will support the creation of more than one million private-sector jobs, lower gas prices, and repair our nation's roads and bridges.

The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act represents a stark contrast to the way Washington has done business as it contains ZERO earmarks. None. Unlike Washington's past highway bills stuffed with 6,371 earmarks, many of which siphoned off resources from high-priority projects, the bill instead includes major pro-growth reforms that will help to clear the way for long-term U.S. economic growth. These reforms eliminate or consolidate nearly 70 duplicative federal transportation programs, cut through red tape and give states more authority to speed up the project approval process, increase states' flexibility to prioritize and fund projects, ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on our most critical infrastructure needs, and encourage private sector participation in financing and building projects.

Washington's "one size fits all" mindset doesn't work. State and local governments are best positioned to understand and decide where tax dollars should be spent. But rather than relying on special interest earmarks and federal bureaucrats to set priorities, this highway bill will let states and localities set their own - meaning Washington will no longer be able to tell states how much or little they can spend on certain project areas.

Solid infrastructure is critical to states like Ohio. This long-term plan will provide at least 5 years of stability so states can undertake major infrastructure projects as opposed to the usual Washington patchwork budgets that increase economic uncertainty. Reforming programs and reducing the federal bureaucracy under the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act will ensure a more streamlined federal government and more effective investment of resources to create jobs.


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