The House has approved legislation that would set 2003 highway funding at a minimum of $27.7 billion, rejecting President Bush's proposal to cut spending by $4.4 billion. The vote on May 14 was 410-5. A companion bill in the Senate has 74 co-sponsors but is stalled in committee.

House Transportation Chairman Young. (Photo by the Office of Rep. Don Young)

In his budget proposal, Bush sought $23.3 billion for highways in 2003. He cited the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century's Revenue Aligned Budget Authority provision, which annually adjusts highway funds to user tax income. The RABA calculation in the budget was a minus $4.4 billion, due in part to a projected decline in the user taxes.

In recent weeks, administration officials and Bush himself have backed away from the original proposal, indicating support for the $27.7-billion level.

If the $27.7 billion stands up through action by the Appropriations Committees, it still would represent a 13% reduction below 2002's level of $31.8 billion.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), who introduced the bill, said the legislation "is vital to state departments of transportation, which cannot absorb the proposed 27% cut below the level of funding received in the previous year. The bill also ensures that these restored funds will be spent according to the formula established by TEA 21."

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said, "While the [RABA] provision needs fine-tuning to avoid dramatic swings, it is essential to keep faith with Americans that the taxes they pay at the pump are used for their benefit, as guaranteed under [TEA-21]."