Speech

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​​​​​​​Faith and Freedom Coalition

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Faith and Freedom Coalition
Road to the Majority Policy Conference
Washington, D.C.
Friday, June 8, 2018

Thank you, Ralph [Reed, Founder & Chairman].  It is a pleasure to be here with friends who share a vision of our country that protects and promotes faith, freedom, family and opportunity.  These have been the touchstones of my life and in my career.  These are the values that motivated my parents to move their family across the world to America when I was eight years old.

Faith, freedom and opportunity are not abstract concepts for those who have experienced life without them.  Faith enabled my family to face the challenges of being in a new land, learning a new language and culture with optimism, hope, and confidence.  When we arrived in America, we didn’t know anyone.  It was our local church that welcomed us, gave us comfort and advice on how to maneuver through everyday life, such as how to go to the grocery store, and where to go to find the basic necessities of life.  Fellow church members also helped us to learn about American traditions and customs.  We learned about barbecues, picnics, and the thrill of discovering that there was a place called the library that let us borrow books for free.  And, of course, Sundays were devoted to gathering with fellow congregants in worship.  Faith and opportunity allowed my parents to build a business and put six daughters through college.  My sisters and I grew up grateful for the opportunities that this country gave our family and we are dedicated to contributing to this country. 

This Administration is keeping the faith with the American people by working hard to increase opportunities for all. Among the most notable achievements so far was the President’s success in working with Congress to pass meaningful tax reform.   It was based on a fundamental precept:  if you want to empower the people rather than the government, let them keep more of the money they earn.  American families received $3.2 trillion in gross tax cuts, and saw the child tax credit double.  This action by President Trump and this Congress yielded immediate positive results for the economy and for middle class Americans.    

The Administration is also diligently addressing the problem of unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations that do real economic harm.  Last year, the big news was the Administration’s two-for-one regulatory mandate.  For every new regulation, Departments were supposed to eliminate two old ones.   In 2018, DOT is well on its way to achieving a six-to-one ratio -- eliminating SIX unnecessary and burdensome regulations for every new one.

Under the previous administration, the Department of Transportation increased regulatory costs on job creators by an average of nearly $3 billion each year.  Last year, the Department reduced regulatory costs -- by $312 million.  The Department is on track to reduce regulatory costs by an additional $500 million or more in 2018 – in fact, it looks like we are going to surpass $1 billion in net cost savings this year.  That is why the Mercatus Institute has named the Department of Transportation #1 in the Administration for decreasing regulatory burdens.   And the American Action Forum recently announced that the Department of Transportation has already initiated over 100 deregulatory actions, the most of any cabinet or agency in the government by far.

It is no coincidence that after a sluggish 8 years, America’s economy is finally on a trajectory of strong economic growth.  That means more prosperity and more jobs for more Americans.  Consumer confidence has hit a 17-year high. 

Three million new jobs have been created in the last year alone.  In May 2018, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent—the lowest in almost 50 years.  This includes 304,000 new manufacturing jobs and 337,000 new construction jobs.  Gallup reports that a record 67 percent of Americans believe now is a good time to find a quality job. In fact, today there are more job openings than there are unemployed Americans—something that has never before occurred as long as these statistics have been measured.

Regulatory reform at the Department of Transportation has been achieved without compromising safety -- which is my number one priority.  My other top priorities are to make progress in addressing our country’s infrastructure needs; and, preparing for the future by promoting safety without hampering innovation.

Our country is on the cusp of a transportation revolution.  New technologies will one day transform the way we travel and connect with one another.  Autonomous – or self-driving – vehicles, drones and other transportation innovations have the potential to improve safety by addressing human error.  And they will increase access to transportation for the elderly and people with disabilities.

But there are legitimate concerns about this new technology.  A majority of Americans tell pollsters that they are hesitant to ride in autonomous cars.  They worry about safety and privacy.  I have challenged Silicon Valley and others innovating in this arena to help educate the American public about this emerging technology and address these legitimate concerns. 

As a former Secretary of Labor, I’m also concerned about the effect new technology may have on the workforce.  New technologies create jobs.  But the transition period can be difficult for dislocated workers.  So, this needs to be addressed as these technologies are increasingly deployed.

The Department is not taking the typical Washington-centered approach toward transportation innovation.  It will cultivate and encourage safe innovation by eliminating unnecessary obstacles to the development and integration of new technology. Our approach is tech-neutral and flexible — not top-down, command and control. Stakeholders and the market, not bureaucrats, will decide.

For example, the Department’s new Drone Integration Pilot Program was established to set up partnerships between local communities and drone operators to allow testing of drones in conditions that are normally not permitted: over people, beyond line of sight of the operator, and at night.  On May 9, the Department announced the 10 communities that were selected to participate in the program out of more than 150 applicants.

Likewise, the Department provided voluntary – not mandatory – guidelines for autonomous vehicles when it unveiled ADS 2.0 – A Vision for Safety – September 12, 2017.  Technology is changing so rapidly that work is already underway on AV 3.0 which we hope to release later this summer.  This new AV guidance will be multimodal, and include various surface transportation systems, such as mass transit, rail, and trucking.

The many transportation innovations that are already being deployed and are on the horizon are additional reasons to be optimistic for the future of our country. 

America’s transportation infrastructure is vital to advancing our economy and our quality of life.  And it always has been.  Infrastructure became a priority in America soon after the first colonists landed at Jamestown.  In fact, the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first popularly elected legislature in the New World, passed highway legislation nearly four hundred years ago, in 1632. 

Four centuries later, the infrastructure may be different, but it has the same purpose:  enable commerce and mobility.  Today, we continue that effort – on land, sea, in the air and in space.  And you can have faith that this administration will continue to do so as efficiently and effectively as possible.    
Thank you.

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Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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