Bush administration will propose a transportation reauthorization
bill that provides $247.2 billion for highways and transit
over the next six years, a 19% increase over the level guaranteed
by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, U.S.
Dept. of Transportation officials say.
Deputy DOT Secretary Michael Jackson told reporters on Feb.
3 that the administration's bill, which hasn't received final
White House clearance, would provide $195.2 billion for highways
and $51.8 billion for mass transit in fiscal years 2004 through
2009. The $247-billion total compares with $207 billion guaranteed
by TEA-21, including funds from higher-than-projected fuel
tax receipts under that statute.
Under the proposal, highway spending would rise from $31.1
billion in 2004 to $35.8 billion in 2009, while transit funding
would increase from $7.2 billion in 2004 to $8.1 billion in
Jackson said that in its 2004 budget, the administration is
proposing to shift to the Highway Trust Fund the 2.5 cents
per gallon in gasohol taxes that now flow into the general
fund. That would raise about $600 million a year for the new
bill, he said.
In addition, the budget seeks to spend down about $1 billion
per year of the balance in the trust fund and allocate that
for a new "Infrastructure Performance and Maintenance" program
"aimed at immediate highway needs and at projects that can
be implemented quickly," he said.
But Bush remains opposed to increasing the motor fuels taxes.
Jackson said, "We will squeeze everything prudently, getting
the most we can from the trust fund, but the President's budget
does not propose new user fees."
Industry and state officials have proposed levels higher than
the administration ins recommending. One option they advocate
is indexing the fuels taxes to account for inflation. Mary
Peters, head of the Federal Highway Administration, "The administration
has not taken a position on indexing."