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ICYMI: Congressman Price Delivers Opening Remarks at THUD Subcommittee Hearing with Secretary Chao

April 13, 2018
Speeches

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (Apr. 13, 2018) – Yesterday, April 12, 2018, Congressman David Price (D-NC) delivered the following remarks at the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (THUD) hearing with Secretary Elaine Chao of the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Rep. Price questioned Secretary Chao about the Trump Administration’s inadequate budget request as well as  the Department’s commitment to highway, rail, aviation, and transit programs that are critical to North Carolina and the nation.

 

            Remarks as prepared.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m pleased to be here this afternoon as we examine the FY 2019 budget request for the Department of Transportation.  Secretary Chao, thank you for joining us today.

Infrastructure serves as the foundation for our economy and quality of life.  It facilitates the flow of goods and services, and it connects people to employment and educational opportunities.  The condition and performance of our infrastructure is critical for the nation's health, welfare, and economic competitiveness. 

As we all know, the United States has been steadily falling behind our international peers when it comes to investing in the infrastructure that is required in the 21st century economy.  The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there is a U.S. infrastructure funding gap of $2 trillion over the next decade.  According to federal statistics, 70,000 bridges—one out of every nine—are classified as structurally deficient. 

The U.S. economy is expected to lose almost $4 trillion in GDP between now and 2025 if this infrastructure investment gap is not addressed.  In other words, we have every reason to be mindful of the costs of not facing up to our country’s infrastructure crisis—and it is not hyperbolic to call it a crisis. 

That’s why it’s disappointing to see that the U.S. Department of Transportation, for the second year in a row, has put forward a budget request that is woefully inadequate for the task at hand. 

While the request largely adheres to the funding levels agreed upon in the FAST Act for programs that rely on trust fund dollars, overall budget authority would be cut by nearly $3 billion or 15 percent.  The brunt of these funding reductions would fall upon discretionary accounts designed to advance public transit, rail, and other multi-modal projects that are critical to our nation’s transportation future. 

For example, the highly competitive and oversubscribed TIGER program would be eliminated.  Capital Investment Grants that advance critical transit projects across the country would once again be drastically curtailed so that only projects with existing grant agreements may receive funding.  The request would also slash resources for Amtrak and rail infrastructure grant programs, and it once again includes unrealistic assumptions about air traffic control privatization while reducing key safety, facilities, and operations accounts at FAA.

The budget request also stands in stark contrast to the recently enacted FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which passed on a bipartisan basis and was signed into law by President Trump last month.  The omnibus:

  • triples funding for TIGER
  • brings CIG funding to its highest level in recent memory
  • fully funds FAA activities
  • includes billions of additional funding above the authorized levels for formula programs for highways, transit, and aviation
  • and represents the largest federal investment in rail since the Recovery Act nearly a decade ago

I’d like to congratulate Chairman Diaz-Balart and our subcommittee colleagues for advancing legislation that meets the priorities of so many Members on both sides of the aisle.  It truly represents a major “down payment” toward improving our nation’s infrastructure. 

Madam Secretary, I hope you will clarify how this proposed budget—which would decimate these bipartisan investments—would move our country forward.  The request appears quite similar to last year’s budget that was roundly rejected on a bipartisan basis.

I also look forward to hearing how the Department will administer the new funding provided in the 2018 omnibus, especially when it comes to the Capital Investment Grants program.  It is my expectation that the Department will distribute this funding efficiently and effectively while adhering to both relevant statutes and the directives of the Appropriations Committee.

Before I close, I’d also like to briefly note my alarm at reports in the media that indicate Republican leadership is working with the White House to develop a rescission package to claw back and cancel certain non-defense spending included in the 2018 omnibus appropriations package.  This action would not only damage critical programs that Americans rely upon; it would undermine the entire appropriations process and the good faith and trust on which it depends.  It would be a betrayal, and it would make future bipartisan agreement much more difficult to achieve.

Madame Secretary, I look forward to your testimony today and working with you to ensure vital transportation programs are adequately funded. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

 

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