Months after he started floating the idea, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a $375-billion, six-year transportation funding bill that would replace the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, but the new measure is silent on how to raise that revenue.
Young, who began discussing a $375-billion plan late last year, has advocated raising the federal gasoline tax to help pay for it. But he has run into opposition from the White House, which has come out against hiking the tax.
"All options are open," says Young. "I'm still pushing a user fee."What about the White House opposition? Young said, "The Lord will take care of us one way or the other."
In announcing his planned bill on Nov. 18, titled the "Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users" (TEA-LU), Young said it would include $298 billion for highways and $67 billion for transit. He said he's aiming to have the bill passed by his committee and on the House floor by the end of February. TEA-21 expired on Sept. 30, and Congress has extended the program through Feb. 29.
To address the desires of "donor states," Young said his new bill would guarantee states at least a 95% return on their gas tax payments by 2009.
Young has the support of key Democrats on the committee and many construction groups. Leaders of the Associated General Contractors, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the operating engineers' union and the American Public Transportation Association were among those who spoke in favor of the bill at a Nov.18 press conference.
Young's bill would be an increase of about 70% over TEA-21's total. The Alaskan's plan is the largest among the transportation proposals in Congress.
In the Senate, lawmakers are proposing $311.5 billion. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a bill calling for $255 billion for highways--but doesn't address how to finance it. Banking committee leaders have said they will recommend $56.5 billion for transit.
The Bush administration has proposed a $247-billion package, with $201 billion of that for highways and $37.6 billion for transit.
(Photo courtesy of Rep. Don Young's office)