Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015by Representative Earl Blumenauer
Posted on 2015-12-03
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, the passage of H.R. 22, Fixing America's
Surface Transportation Act, is a significant accomplishment. It ends
the embarrassing string of 37 short-term extensions. It provides five
years of certainty with modest, but important, increased spending
levels. There are provisions that deal with safety, innovation, and
integrating passenger rail into overall surface transportation, among
many other notable items.
I am pleased that a number of provisions that I have authored and championed have found their way into the final version of this legislation. One of the unheralded provisions potentially has the most significant, far-reaching consequences--the expansion of work on an alternative user-fee to replace the gas tax. This reflects legislation I have introduced that builds upon the Oregon pilot project on road user charges. There is also a specific title dealing with innovation. The next five years will see unparalleled changes in transportation practices and technology that can have a transformational effect on our way of life, and this bill embraces this.
Unfortunately, Congress continues to refuse to address a Highway Trust Fund that is inadequate and losing purchasing power by the month. Refusing to increase the gas tax for 22 years or to have any other source of revenue has complicated passage of a long-term bill. Instead, the collection of budget gimmicks paying for the legislation are, in many cases, questionable. For example, using private bill collectors to hound low-income taxpayers who run into financial difficulty is a money loser, as well as ineffective and unpopular. This is one of many ways the bill is paid for, basically to disguise the use of the Treasury's general fund instead of the traditional user fee model.
I am hopeful that we can use the next five years to build upon the positive framework of the legislation and for Congress to accept the overwhelming consensus of the people who build, maintain, and use our surface transportation system. They want to increase user fees to adequately fund transportation, and so should we as well.
I will vote for this bill because the positive policy features are compelling and because it gives us an opportunity to use this five-year period of stability to get it right. I will spare no effort to do so, and I hope I'm joined by my colleagues so that the next reauthorization truly enables us to rebuild and renew America, put millions of Americans to work at family wage jobs, and strengthen communities from coast to coast.