The leadership of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., ranking member – are the latest members of Congress to call for the repeal of Section 1438 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act that would rescind $7.6 billion in federal highway program funding on July 1 next year.
[Above photo by Bruce Ingalls/NASA.]
In a letter sent June 12 to Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Barrasso and Sen. Carper said that “this rescission should be repealed in any future budget or spending agreement that the Congress considers before the end of this fiscal year.
If it stands, this rescission will impact every state’s ability to plan, build and repair needed roads and bridges that are vital to American communities. Failure to address this rescission will cost jobs and needlessly slow our economy.”
Both senators also noted in their joint letter that they seek to get the rescission canceled regardless when they wrap up their work on surface transportation reauthorization legislation.
“We are making progress on a bipartisan highway bill. We plan to report the bill out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this summer,” they said, yet added that the rescission is “one issue that needs to be addressed before our highway infrastructure bill is likely to be signed into law.”
The EPW leadership’s comments add to the bipartisan nature of the rescission repeal effort, as members of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure from both parties made a similar appeal in a May 8 letter sent to House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; a letter that also called for the release of $9.3 billion in revenues “sitting idle” in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
“Regardless of the amount rescinded from each state, the rescission will significantly limit the flexibility of all states and impact the ability to plan and execute highway and bridge projects,” the House T&I committee leaders said in their letter. “These projects are necessary in order to grow the U.S. economy, create jobs, and ensure the Nation’s global competitiveness. We therefore request that the rescission be repealed as part of any budget agreement.”
The detrimental impact of the rescission was also highlighted in a May 24 letter sent to Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; a letter cosigned by 30 other transportation groups.
“If the FAST Act rescission is allowed to execute, it will virtually wipe out all remaining contract authority available to states nationwide in the programs subject to the rescission,” the organization noted. “In addition, if allowed to take place, the rescission will significantly reduce the budget baseline for surface transportation programs beginning in fiscal year 2021.”
Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, added that the rescission is a “major concern” for state departments of transportation because it “impedes the ability of states” to meet their individual infrastructure needs and disrupts transportation planning and timely delivery of projects.
“The rescission will result in real cuts to transportation funding and it will cause delays in project construction at a time that both Congress and the Administration are looking to increase transportation investments,” he said. “That’s why AASHTO and our state DOT members have been working to educate Congress on the impacts of the rescission.”