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July 28, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on
H.R. 2169, the Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY
1998, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration
of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The Administration is pleased with many aspects of the Committee bill, particularly funding support provided for transportation safety and transportation infrastructure programs. As discussed below, the Administration will seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions from the President's request. We recognize that it will not be possible in all cases to attain the Administration's full request and will work with the Senate toward achieving acceptable funding levels.
The Administration is committed to working with the Senate to identify reductions in the bill in order to find offsets for the restoration of funds that the Administration seeks. The Administration suggests that virtually all of its priorities could be funded through limited reductions in infrastructure programs, which the Committee has funded at levels in excess of the Administration's requests. We urge the Senate to reduce funding for lower priority programs, or for programs that would be adequately funded at the requested level, and to redirect funding to programs of higher priority.
The Administration realizes that the Committee has not funded several requested programs because they have not yet been authorized as part of the National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act (NEXTEA). The Administration reiterates its support for State Infrastructure Banks, the Transportation Credit Enhancement program, and the Access to Jobs and Training program. These programs will significantly increase the impact of Federal transportation investment and help to make "welfare to work" a reality. They can be accommodated within the overall funding levels agreed to by the Committee.
The Administration is pleased with the Committee's decision to fund Amtrak operations at the President's requested level of $344 million. The Administration supports the request for $222 million in general capital funding and objects to the Committee's decision to provide no funding. The Committee has not provided Amtrak with general capital funding assuming that a proposal for an Intercity Passenger Rail Fund, currently in the Senate version of the Reconciliation bill, would provide Amtrak with over $600 million in general capital funding in FY 1998. The Intercity Passenger Rail Fund may not be enacted.
Federal Aviation Administration
The Committee is encouraged to provide additional funding for the deployment of security enhancement equipment, with offsets from other infrastructure spending. The Administration also urges the Senate to provide the $100 million in advance appropriations requested for this equipment in FY 1999 so that continuity can be assured in the procurement process.
The Administration commends the Committee for not funding highway demonstration projects. However, the Administration objects to the Committee's earmarking of 25 transit projects for which Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs) have neither been signed nor are expected to be signed. Many of these projects have yet to complete required planning and engineering studies to determine their costs and benefits. Any future funding for these projects would be in addition to the $3.7 billion outstanding Federal share of projects with existing FFGAs. Such earmarking risks creating expectations that may be difficult to meet under a balanced budget. The Senate is urged to redirect theses funds to higher priority items.
The Committee has provided substantial funding to conduct several earmarked operational tests within the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program. The Administration has requested funding in NEXTEA to support operational tests and would prefer that, rather than setting aside funds for specific projects, these projects compete on an equal basis with other potential proposals. Furthermore, the ITS program's focus is shifting from operational testing to integrated deployment. NEXTEA provides $100 million for a new Deployment Incentives program to encourage integrated deployment. The operational tests funded by the Committee could be duplicative of previous tests.
The Committee bill would modify section 29 of Public Law 96-192 (the Wright Amendment) in two respects. The Administration believes that any change to section 29 must be based on thorough analysis. Further, the question of which aircraft should be allowed to operate under section 29 is currently before the court in Astraea Aviation Services v. U.S. Department of Transportation, 5th Cir. No. 96-60802 (filed November 18, 1996). The Administration believes that the Congress should review the court's ultimate conclusion on the proper interpretation of section 29 before acting to change the statute.
Additional Administration concerns with the Committee bill are contained in the attachment.
H.R. 2169 -- DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
APPROPRIATIONS BILL, FY 1998
(AS REPORTED BY THE SENATE FULL COMMITTEE)
The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to address the
following additional concerns: