A few key Congressional committee members have begun to reveal their plans for the next surface transportation authorization bill, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Last week, in a series of meetings with transportation industry group leaders including APTA President William Millar, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced his commitment to drafting a full six-year bill in 2011 and outlined four key principles for the legislation, APTA officials said in a prepared statement.
According to APTA, Mica's four principles would:
• stabilize the Highway Trust Fund, ensuring spending would not exceed actual Trust Fund receipts;
• recapture unspent federal funds within the transportation program (although specific funds have not been identified, Mica has noted significant unobligated funds remain available throughout the federal transportation program that could supplement trust funding spending);
• leverage federal funds through public-private partnerships and other alternative financing mechanisms (Mica is interested in expanding current authorized programs that provide loan assistance and innovative financing, such as the Transportation Innovative Financing and Innovation Act and Building America Bonds. He also is open to new programs that encourage more private investment); and
• streamline programs and speed up project delivery to save costs.
Mica's goals for the legislation "are based on the premise that there will be no new resources available to increase trust fund revenues, and that the political climate is not favorable for a general increase in spending without budget offsets," APTA officials said.
In his own prepared statement, Mica said he plans to travel to more than a dozen U.S. locations this month, starting Feb. 14 in West Virginia, to hold hearings and listening sessions to gather ideas for the legislation. At least a dozen other sessions have been scheduled for Feb. 17-25, including a joint House-Senate hearing in Los Angeles with cooperation from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Boxer also has indicated that a surface transportation reauthorization bill is a top priority for her committee in the next few months, APTA said.
Meanwhile, APTA officials believe the Administration’s outlook on a bill will become clearer the week of Feb. 14, when the President Barack Obama submits his fiscal-year 2012 budget proposal to Congress.
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