Congress is in recess this week, with most members meeting with constituents across their district or state.  Legislative activity resumes on March 28. 

Appropriations: Last week Congress passed a bill extending FY 2011 funding through April 8th.  It included spending reductions of about $6B.  No transportation cuts were included this time.  Most of the reductions are the last of the “low hanging fruit” that both chambers, both parties, and the White House could agree on.   

Reaching agreement on the final FY 2011 will be much more difficult.  The Senate and House are deeply divided about the next round of spending reductions; at the same time, more and more members oppose any further short term bills.  Leadership in both chambers and in both parties opposed a government shutdown, but that’s still a possibility. 

The spending cuts in the current 2011 funding bill are focused in agriculture, commerce, justice, state and interior programs.  

SAFETEA-LU is extended through September 30th, 2011.

Other news:
Senators introduce The Build Act to create an infrastructure bank to fund transportation, water,  energy and communications projects.  The WA Post covers it, and the NYT editorializes in favor.

AASHTO offered five recommendations to USDOT for streamlining project delivery.  USDOT held the meeting in response to an executive order requiring federal agencies to ensure regulations protect the nation's safety, public health, and environment while promoting economic growth. It also orders a review of existing rules to remove outdated or ineffective regulations that stifle job creation and make America's economy less competitive.

The House Transportation Committee approved its Fiscal Year 2012 budget views and estimates which recommends funding reductions and increased efficiencies for many programs.  The 30-page document does not provide recommended funding levels, but does provide a number of policy objectives. 

An example:  "The Committee is supportive of eliminating surface transportation programs that are no longer in the Federal interest and consolidating programs that overlap or are duplicative. ..." (p. 17)” is perceived by some as an attempt to restructure or end the Enhancements program.  Bike/ped projects might – might – continue, but transportation museums and beautification projects will almost certainly not be funded if the majority has its way.  "Views and Estimates of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for Fiscal Year 2012," is available at bit.ly/HTIC-VE12.

The Aviation authorization will probably be extended once more, through the end of May.

Posted On 3/21/2011 10:49:00 AM by Larry Ehl |

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