Friday, July 21, 2006

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee - Transportation Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday reported a Fiscal Year 2007 spending bill that includes an obligation limitation of $39.086 billion for the federal-aid highway program and $8.8 billion for transit.

The highway funding level corresponds to the authorizations contained in the Safe,
Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users
(SAFETEA-LU) reauthorization act and the level passed by the House and recommended by
the President. [SAFETEA-LU, pronounced safety-lew, might be the worst acronym ever created.]

The figure includes some $842 million in Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) funding for highways, which is subject to the obligation limitation. The bill also appropriates $20 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System and $20 million for the Delta Region Transportation Development Program.

For transit, the committee approved $7.264 billion for formula, bus, research and
administrative programs, the levels contained in SAFETEA-LU. However, the bill falls some $100 million short of the level that is authorized for new starts, with only $1.466 billion proposed to be provided from the General Fund. This also reflects the President's budget proposal.

The appropriators exceeded both the President's proposal and the House bill in the
$1.4 billion appropriation for Amtrak. According to reports some $750 million of that funding is designated for capital programs, and is contingent upon the submission by Amtrak of a capital improvement program. Total funding for the Federal Railroad Administration is some $1.59 billion; $84 million above the FY06 enacted level and $510,000 above the AdministrationÂ’s request. [Amtrak? We're still spending money on this?]

In aviation, the bill provides a total of $14.225 billion in budgetary resources for the FAA, an increase of $476 million over the AdministrationÂ’s budget request. Of this amount, $8.36 billion is provided for Operations. The bill would increase the Airport Improvements Grant program to some $3.52 billion, a substantial increase over the President's request but some $180 million less than proposed by the House bill. The Essential Air Services program would be funded at the same level as in the House, a total of $117 million. The FAA's facilities and equipment program would be funded at $2.55 billion.

The committee approved the SAFETEA-LU authorized level of funding for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, some $517 million. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration overall level would increase by $5 million over FY 2006 spending, reaching $811 million.

Where does one ever start to assess the appropriateness of a $39B bill? As I am sure there are great and appropriate items in the bill, I am equally sure that there are lousy and inappropriate items. Government is just way to big as so inefficient that it just continueses wasting money.


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