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Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I have serious reservations about H.R. 2887, the ``Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011.''

H.R. 2887 extends for six months, until March 31, 2012, the current spending levels for the surface transportation authorization SAFETEA-LU. This authorization expired in September 2009 and this will be the 8th short term extension. When this original 5-year authorization was passed, it set spending levels above estimated gas tax revenues with goal of spending down the excess balances in the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, such as the economic downturn and more fuel efficient vehicles, the gas tax revenue plateaued while spending remained high. As a result, the Highway Trust Fund is now insolvent and has required almost $35 billion in bailouts since 2008. Without reform, CBO estimates that the Highway account will require another bailout in the first few months of calendar year 2013 and a total of $134 billion in General Fund transfers over the next ten years.

The House FY 2012 Budget anticipates a long-term surface transportation authorization bill that keeps the Highway Trust Fund solvent without additional bailouts or gas tax increases. Maintaining the current unsustainable level of spending, even for just another 6 months, worsens the financial condition of the Trust Fund and makes the inevitable task of balancing its spending to meet revenues even more painful. I urge the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction to come to agreement on a new surface transportation bill that streamlines the numerous programs at the Department of Transportation into a smaller number of core highway activities; eliminates diversions to non-highway projects such as bike trails and museums; and eliminates earmarks such as the infamous ``bridge to nowhere.''

H.R. 2887 also extends for four months, until January 31, 2012, current spending levels for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This will be the 22nd short-term extension since the last long term authorization expired in 2007. These programs are long past due for updated and reformed policies. Like current surface transportation spending, the FAA's Airport Improvement Program [AIP] has been spending at unsustainable levels and must be restructured to do more with less. Between 2000 and 2010, spending on the AIP program increased by 47-percent. In light of soaring deficits, these high levels cannot be sustained. The House FY 2012 Budget calls for reasonable spending reductions consistent with H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, which maintains the ability for airports to obtain additional non-Federal sources of funding for important infrastructure investments.

Surface Transportation and FAA programs are a critical part of a 21st century infrastructure in the United States. We know these programs are outdated and some are on an unsustainable path. While letting these programs expire is not an option, Congress must act quickly to enact fiscally responsible and effective reformed authorizations.

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