Following the subcommittee markup of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill today and last week's release of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit -- the subcommittee tasked with writing a surface transportation reauthorization bill this year -- issued the following statement.
"Unlike today's transportation appropriations bill, the Administration's multi-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal is a realistic and productive launching point that, if followed, should help our subcommittee and the full committee move quickly to complete a comprehensive reauthorization this year. The Administration proposes funding levels that do not yet allow the nation to catch up because the Congress has gone several years without a long-term surface transportation bill, passing only a short-term bill that provided essentially no new funding. However, the Administration has proposed a $300 billion bill, including $150 billion in transition funding from corporate tax reform, giving Congress time to agree on a realistic, modernized source of funding. The transition funding beats any idea now alive in the Congress.
"In contrast, the House Appropriations Committee's Transportation, Housing and Urban Development FY 2015 bill goes in the opposite direction. The bill appropriates $17.1 billion for DOT in FY 2015, roughly $727.3 million less than the skimpy FY 2014 enacted level. The President's budget request for FY 2015 would double funding for TIGER grants, a discretionary program that provides funds for critical road, rail, transit and port projects, from $600 million to $1.2 billion. Although states are in the throes of rail and port projects as the Panama Canal expansion is underway, the GOP appropriations bill virtually eliminates funding for the FY 2015 TIGER grant program, providing only $100 million. The FY 2015 appropriations bill also removes TIGER funding for "non-essential purposes', including bike and pedestrian paths, even though there is rising demand throughout the country. In addition, the bill cuts Amtrak capital grants by $200 million below the $1.390 billion appropriated this year, and places limits on overtime pay for Amtrak employees.
"However, I am particularly pleased that the Administration's four-year reauthorization bill gives major attention to work force development. It contains a provision much like a bill I introduced in the previous two Congresses. My Pre-Apprenticeship Training Act required the use of .5% funding from state surface transportation federal allotments for job training, particularly combating the effects of past discrimination and for many others who will be needed in the workforce because the cohort of baby boom journeymen and other skilled workers is retiring. Previously the .5% of funding for training was optional and only 17 states have made any training available. Now, the President sees the mounting need for trained construction workers and includes an entirely new workforce development section that goes beyond my mandatory training provision. I support the Administration's proposal that uses an incentive for states to obtain funding for transportation and technology skill development training by obligating their federal surface transportation funding to be matched by the Department of Transportation at up to two dollars for every state dollar obligated. In addition, up to 20 states that already have on-the-job training programs, could receive grants if they partner with an institution or agency with demonstrated success, training and job placement.
"I am not surprised that the Administration's four-year transportation reauthorization bill goes in the opposite direction of today's FY 2015 markup. The big challenge remains with our surface transportation subcommittee and the full committee to take the Administration's proposal or come forward with better ideas for a four-year transportation reauthorization bill this year."