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House testimony on the 2015 Budget

Secretary Foxx Before the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee

Washington, DC • March 12, 2014 • As prepared for delivery

I want to say a particular word of thanks to the Chair and the Ranking Member for your years of service. I know I speak for many transportation advocates when I say you will be deeply missed.

Today, I’m here to discuss the President’s 2015 plan for our nation’s transportation system.

While I come here as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, our Department supports all 50 states and territories and a host of local and regional project sponsors. Today, I also speak for them.

What concerns our department and our stakeholders is what concerns many of you:

Year-after-year, we’ve shored up the Highway Trust Fund with short-term measures – and now it’s running out again, perhaps as early as August.

On top of that, our last surface funding bill was a two-year bill, rather than a 6-year bill like the ones that came before it.

When I speak to folks on the ground – including mayors, governors, heads of the DOTs in your states – they tell me that this funding and policy uncertainty is creating an invisible crisis in our country.

A crisis where they’re not willing or able to put new projects on the books because they don’t know if they can fund them – which means they’re leaving our already crumbling infrastructure to crumble further.

To put a finer point on it: Since 2009, our surface transportation programs have operated under short-term extensions nine times – including a two-day lapse in March of 2010.

And there have been 18 continuing resolutions – including eight in fiscal year 2011.

Overall, our nation is facing a massive infrastructure deficit, including 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare and billions of dollars in backlogged highway transit maintenance.

And according to the World Economic Forum, our infrastructure has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it now ranks 25th in the world.

To meet these challenges, we have to face two realities: The first is that we’re underinvesting.

And the second is that our system is underperforming from an efficiency standpoint.

If you could imagine America’s infrastructure as a house, we have had years of termites in the basement. In effect, we’re spending money by allowing the cost of repairs to rise as the damage becomes more extensive.

The most fiscally responsible path is to invest significantly more in our system, which will spur job growth and allow us to meet growing new capacity needs and deferred maintenance.

By working together, we can change these trends for the better.

And it is in that spirit that, a few weeks ago, President Obama laid out his vision for a four year, $302-billion transportation plan that will put us back on a path to solving this problem.

To fill the hole in the Highway Trust Fund, the plan draws on savings from pro-growth business tax reform – a bipartisan pay-for. And I should point out that Chairman Camp has released his own variation of this proposal, which suggests to me there’s an opportunity here to get something done.

In fact, we in the administration are also sending a bill to Congress that will provide program-by-program details behind every budget request in this plan.

To the issue of underperformance, we can and should continue to improve the efficiency of our system. And our proposal aims to do so.

Our proposal enables us to redouble our efforts to increase the value proposition of transportation dollars. And we can do so without compromising project integrity or the environment.

That’s why major new initiatives in the President’s budget include putting a premium on streamlining our interagency permitting reviews and on using incentives to catalyze process innovation at the state and local levels.

The American people need and deserve funding certainty so they can plan.

I would encourage the committee and Congress to do something different: Shock the world.

Let’s get a long-term funding plan in place and move America forward.

Thank you all. I’m happy to answer your questions.

Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014
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