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Transportation Budget: "Where's The Beef, Mr. President?"
Wolfe writes that "President Barack Obama’s new budget for transportation is as ambitious as it is unachievable..." New revenue sources for surface transportation spending are needed considering that MAP-21 expires September 2014, yet none are to be found. However, a "$100-per-flight fee for commercial aviation" is included as is a 94-cent-a-pack cigarette tax.
The $76.9 transportation budget (PDF) "includes $40 billion in “Fix-it-First investments for improving existing infrastructure assets" and "(p)roposes a five-year, $40 billion rail reauthorization proposal to significantly improve existing intercity passenger rail services, develop new high speed rail corridors, and strengthen the economic competitiveness of our freight rail system."
But the budget again whiffs on how to pay for it all, resurrecting the flaccid so-called peace dividend that Congress has passed over in various ways.
The Hill's Keith Laing writes that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman made a similar observation.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said the president left out a way to pay for his transportation recommendations.
"One of the most essential questions in this debate is how do we finance infrastructure maintenance and improvements without adding to our debt," the House Transportation Committee chairman said.
Wolfe notes one significant name change that should please transit advocates:
The Highway Trust Fund, which also pays for federal transit programs, would be renamed the Transportation Trust Fund, with rail included under its auspices — though the budget contains no hint about how the expanded trust fund would be paid for in the long term.
Funding the HTF would appear to be more important than what to call it as the "Congressional Budget Office projects that, starting in 2015, the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund will have insufficient revenues to meet its obligations."