Cole Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the Department of Transportation (As Prepared)

Apr 19, 2023

The subcommittee will come to order.

Today, we welcome testimony from the Honorable Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Thank you for appearing before us today and for your service.

Mr. Secretary, I appreciated our recent phone conversation about your visit to the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center and the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago.  I’m glad you were able to see firsthand some of the critical transportation assets there are in Oklahoma.  I look forward to discussing what more we can do in Oklahoma, given our unique geography, DOT facilities, and opportunities with other federal entities, like the Department of Defense.

The Department of Transportation is requesting $27.9 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 2024.  Coupled with the $36.8 billion in advanced appropriations and the nearly $80 billion in the Highway Trust Fund, DOT is seeking $145 billion in total resources.  

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included over $184 billion dollars in advance appropriations over a five-year period.  Let me be clear, these appropriations are under the jurisdiction of this Committee.  We will not be treating these large amounts of taxpayer dollars as if they are on autopilot.  The funds will be subject to strong oversight as we consider fiscal year 2024 appropriations.

Mr. Secretary, I know that the Department takes safety very seriously, as do I and the members of this Committee.  Safety will be among our top priorities, if not the top priority, as we carefully consider how to allocate resources.

From railcar derailments, to motor vehicle traffic fatalities, to airline close calls, there is no shortage of safety concerns.  Even as we work to reign in excessive spending, I want to work with my colleagues to provide the appropriate level of support to DOT programs that ensure the safety of our skies, roads, and railroads. This issue has a nationwide impact, whether it’s in tribal, rural or urban areas.

I also want to work with you, Mr. Secretary, to find ways to meet the unique transportation needs of tribal and rural areas.  Nearly 70 percent of America’s road miles are in rural areas, and about 145,000 miles of roads pass through tribal lands.  These communities face notable challenges and have different needs from urban areas. 

Additionally, these communities too often do not have the resources they need to compete for funding in the competitive discretionary programs at DOT – which were dramatically increased in IIJA.

We need to make sure that the programs under your leadership effectively serve the taxpaying public.  This includes common-sense regulatory reform to reduce burdens on state, local, and tribal governments.  It also means that we need to continue looking at ways to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse across all programs under the jurisdiction of this subcommittee.

I am concerned that the Administration’s policies have not appropriately addressed inflation and supply chain bottlenecks.  While inflation cooled to 5 percent last month, it remains well above the 2 percent target.  Excessive government spending is not the right approach, as these challenges continue to adversely impact our constituents’ quality of life.

We are eager to hear your testimony today on how you will utilize the resources at the Department to foster a safer transportation system, address supply chain challenges, and help tribal and rural communities with their distinct transportation needs. 

Given the history of bipartisanship of this subcommittee, there are common interests shared by members on both sides of the aisle.  As we begin the appropriations process, I look forward to working with my colleagues to responsibly fund the government.

I’d now like to recognize the Ranking Member from Illinois, Mr. Quigley, for his opening statement.