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June 14, 2000
Unfortunately, the FY 2001 congressional budget resolution provides inadequate resources for discretionary investments. We need realistic levels of funding for critical government functions that the American people expect their government to perform well. Based on the inadequate budget resolution, the Subcommittee bill fails to address critical needs of the American people.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to accommodate many of the Administration's priorities in its bill, including: needed Amtrak capital funding, the highway and transit funding levels envisioned at the time of passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century (TEA-21), and funding to expand motor carrier safety programs. The Administration commends the Committee for excluding the House-passed provision that would prohibit any work on the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Because this prohibition has been in place in recent years, the Department has been banned from fully analyzing this important issue. The Administration urges the Senate to keep restrictive CAFE provisions out of the bill. Finally, the Administration commends the Committee's provision that strengthens the important initiative for State 0.08 percent blood alcohol content laws.
The Administration is most concerned that the Committee bill could adversely impact the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) and the Coast Guard's operations as well as highway and pipeline safety programs. The Administration commends the Committee for taking a step in the right direction by providing an additional $120 million for air traffic operations, but more is needed. The remainder of this Statement of Administration Policy highlights our specific concerns with the Committee bill.
Federal Aviation Administration Operations
The Administration strongly urges the Senate to fully fund the President's request for FAA operations. Failure to provide adequate funding for FAA operations would pose a significant risk to the FAA's ability to meet the highest levels of safety and security without creating substantial additional delays in a system already strained to meet the demands arising from the rapid growth in air travel. Congress must not adjourn until it provides adequate funding for FAA Operations in FY 2000 and FY 2001.
We recognize the Committee's efforts to correct the imbalance between capital and operations funding that arose from passage of the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21). When the President signed AIR-21, he stressed the need to work with Congress to correct the imbalance between spending for capital improvements and for operations. The Committee decision to reallocate $53 million from Airport Grants to Administration of Airports and $120 million to Air Traffic Services represents an important first step towards correcting this imbalance. At the same time, the remaining $120 million cut from the President's request will require the FAA to forego important improvements to the air traffic control system. The FAA has faced tight budgets for the past two years and has lived within those budgets by implementing a hiring freeze in many areas, deferring maintenance, and cutting training and travel. Funding significantly below the President's request would compound the FAA's budget problems by forcing continued under funding of our air traffic system, thereby exacerbating, rather than solving, aviation's growing delay and capacity problems.
Coast Guard Operations
The Administration urges the Senate to fully fund the Administration's request for Coast Guard Operations. The Committee has provided $160 million less than the Administration's request, which would significantly reduce the Coast Guard's critical drug interdiction, fisheries enforcement, environmental, and migrant interdiction missions. Also, the Coast Guard may incur additional costs for medical, pay, and quality of life enhancements, consistent with the FY 2001 Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization and Appropriations bills. Under Title 37 of the U.S. Code, the Coast Guard is required to match the funding level if DOD chooses to provide these services. These resources are critical for the Coast Guard's continued effectiveness.
The Administration is disappointed by the Committee's failure to provide $69 million requested for the Mississippi Delta initiative, including $25 million for I-69 and the Great River Bridge, and urges the Senate to provide these funds. This initiative addresses the social and economic challenges facing the Delta region. Although the Delta has seen some economic progress, it remains far behind most of the rest of the country. In the Delta's distressed counties, per capita income is only 53 percent of the national average, and the poverty rate is more than twice the national average. In more than half of the Delta's counties, the poverty rate has exceeded 20 percent for each of the past 40 years. Better transportation infrastructure and services are central to improving the lives of, and increasing the opportunities for, Delta residents by providing access to employment, child care, and training.
Highway and Pipeline Safety
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has provided $105 million less than requested for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Operations and Research account. This funding reduction would limit research on crash worthiness and prevent the implementation of new programs to increase seat belt use and target high-risk groups. The Administration is also concerned that the Committee has provided $7 million less than requested to enhance pipeline safety. This is a critical national issue that must be addressed.
Motor Carrier Hours of Service
The Administration strongly objects to the inclusion of the provision that would prohibit any further action on the part of the Department regarding the motor carriers' hours-of-service rule. We cannot reduce motor carrier fatalities without addressing the problem of operator fatigue. The Congress directed the Department to proceed diligently to address the hours-of- service issue, and it has done so. The provision included in the Committee's bill would end one of the Department's most critical regulatory endeavors to counteract driver fatigue. We urge the Senate to delete this provision.
While the Committee has provided an additional $34 million, the Administration urges the Senate to provide the full $358 million request for transportation services to Native Americans and to allow tribal governments to apply directly for Job Access grants. These funds will be used to address the $4 billion backlog of improvements needed on Indian reservation roads, improve highway safety, and provide welfare recipients and other low-income workers with needed access to jobs and improved construction training opportunities. In addition, the Administration urges the Senate to provide the $5 million requested for design and preliminary engineering of the Four Bears Bridge in North Dakota.
Job Access and Reverse Commute
The Senate is urged to provide the additional $50 million requested for the Job Access and Reverse Commute program, which is a critical component of the Administration's welfare to work effort. Demand for this program is expected to increase further as more communities demonstrate how effective the program can be in helping hard-pressed working families, including former welfare recipients, get to work.
Office of the Secretary
The Administration urges the Senate to provide the President's request of $69 million for the Office of the Secretary, to provide the President's request of $8.7 million for the Office of Civil Rights, and to delete the limitation on political appointees and other restrictions contained in the Committee's bill. These adjustments are necessary to provide the Secretary with the resources and flexibility to manage the Department effectively.
Reallocation of Revenue Aligned Budget Authority to Critical Initiatives
The Administration has proposed to meet important safety, mobility, and environmental requirements, including expanded intercity passenger rail service, by reallocating a portion of the increased spending permitted by the higher-than-anticipated highway excise tax receipts. The Administration urges the Senate to adopt this proposal.
A provision of the Committee bill purports to prohibit Federal agencies funded in this bill from implementing the Kyoto Protocol. It is unnecessary, as the Administration has no intent to implement the Protocol prior to congressional ratification. To the extent this language might reach expenditures for negotiations with foreign governments, it would raise serious constitutional concerns, because the Constitution commits to the President the power to decide whether to engage in such negotiations.
The Administration strongly objects to the earmarking of discretionary programs. These funds should be distributed based on merit.
Infringement on Executive Authority
The Administration objects to a number of provisions in the bill that would require congressional approval before Executive Branch execution. The Administration will interpret these provisions to require only notification of Congress, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v. Chadha.