Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Chairman Tom Latham Opening Statement at Subcommittee Mark Up of FY 2012 Appropriations Bill
September 8, 2011 -
"I’d like to welcome everyone here today for the consideration of the fiscal year 2012 transportation and housing and urban development appropriations bill.
"Our allocation is $55.15 billion - $217 million below last year and almost $20 billion below the request. Under this allocation we were able to meet a number of priorities – preserve the funding for every person and family currently receiving an assisted housing benefit, maintain our investments in the aviation and other transportation and safety systems, continue community development programs, and improve the oversight and transparency of the taxpayer dollars while setting priorities and reducing spending. The message the public gave this Congress was loud and clear – reduce government spending.
"I won’t go into the bill specifics in my opening statement. Thanks to the new rules, the bill text has been posted for the public to view for the past 24 hours. However, there is one area I would like to touch on, and that is the Highway Trust Fund.
"As many of you know, the Trust Fund is in jeopardy. And I agree, much of the transportation infrastructure in this country is also in jeopardy, as is the jobs situation faced by millions of Americans. I know I speak for everyone on this Subcommittee when I say that we value the highway and formula bus programs and we would hope they will be authorized and funded at the highest levels possible, but also funded in a fiscally responsible manner and fully offset. Absent new legislation, there just isn’t enough money in the Trust Fund to sustain a funding level beyond the $27.7 billion in the bill for highways and $5.2 billion for the formula bus program. If we give in to the temptation to spend more than we can afford today, the Trust Fund will be bankrupt in just a few months.
"This committee held numerous hearings with DOT officials in hopes that information – ANY information about the fictional surface transportation program they touted would be forthcoming. At every turn, at every question, the Department refused to provide details on its legislative proposal and it soon became evident that they had absolutely no clue or inclination on how to bring the Trust Fund to a basic solvency, much less to the vibrant program this country so desperately requires.
"I can’t stress enough the necessity of getting the authorizers, the finance committees and the President to fix this program. We all know how imperative it is for our state DOTs to be able to have the ability to plan at least 3, 4, 5 years into the future. But without a comprehensive reauthorization bill, they just can't do it. That's why we desperately need a reauthorization that puts the Trust Fund on a long term sustainable path.
"Looking at the rest of the bill – there are a lot of programs between HUD and DOT all funded at a level appropriate for our allocation. I know my friend and colleague, the Ranking Member, Mr. Olver will disagree. However, I’d like to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts for his input, his participation in this process in a year that has not been easy for him, and his dedication to the THUD bill. It has been a pleasure working with him and his staff.
"I’ll close by thanking the members of the subcommittee for your participation in the hearing and mark up process, and your support of the bill as it appears before you."