As you draft a conference report for a long term Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill, we urge you to preserve language passed by the Senate in MAP-21, S. 1813, to maintain strong Buy America provisions. We believe the Senate-adopted Buy America requirements improve transparency, help maintain our domestic steel industry, create new American jobs, and comply with international trade obligations. With an opportunity to pass the first Surface Transportation Reauthorization since 2005, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that this law does everything possible to improve American infrastructure and create jobs for people around the country.
Specifically, we support requirements that were added to S.1813 in Amendment 1819 that require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to make the Buy America waiver process more transparent and prevent practices to circumvent Buy America, such as the segmentation of contracts and projects. Currently, state and local governments can split infrastructure projects into separate contracts, complying with Buy America and receiving federal dollars for one portion, and using other sources for the non-Buy America compliant remainder of the project. This loophole defeats the spirit and purpose of Buy America, and the language adopted by the Senate will prohibit the practice. The State of California used this strategy for its new Bay Bridge, sending hundreds of millions of dollars to China for work that should have been done by Americans.
We also urge you to maintain the provisions in the Senate bill that are aimed at making the waiver process at DOT more transparent, effective, and accountable. The provisions in S. 1819 will ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on American made components. By requiring DOT to provide more detail about proposed Buy America waivers without unnecessary project delays, American taxpayers can know exactly when and why federal funds might be spent on foreign components. Preserving these portions of the Senate-passed law will help make DOT and the U.S. government accountable to taxpayers across the country.
Because the purpose of a Surface Transportation Reauthorization is not only to improve America's roads and rails, but also to create jobs for our workforce, we believe a strong Buy America component to be crucial to any bill made into law. Spending money on infrastructure is an investment that pays dividends for years to come. However, to maximize the benefit American taxpayers can gain from this law, our investments must lead to procurement of as many American goods as possible so that taxpayer dollars are pushed back into local economies. As our manufacturing and infrastructure industries recover from economic hardship, the need for Buy America is as important as ever. We support the Senate-passed language because it creates American jobs while fully adhering to U.S. international trade obligations.
We strongly encourage you, as members of the Conference Committee, to hold firm in preserving the Buy America provisions that improved the Senate version of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization.
MICHAEL H. MICHAUD