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September 7, 1999
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on S.1143, the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY 2000, as reported by the Senate Appropriations
Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to accommodate many of the Administration's priorities within the 302(b) allocation and the difficult choices made necessary by that allocation. However, the allocation of discretionary resources available under the Congressional Budget Resolution is simply inadequate to make the necessary investments that our citizens need and expect. The President's FY 2000 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending that meet such needs while conforming to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings proposals in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. Congress has approved and the President has signed into law nearly $29 billion of such offsets in appropriations legislation since 1995. The Administration urges the Congress to consider other similar proposals as the FY 2000 appropriations process moves forward. With respect to this bill in particular, the Administration urges the Congress to consider the President's proposal for user fees.
The Administration proposes to meet important safety, mobility, and environmental requirements through the reallocation of a portion of the increased spending resulting from higher-than-anticipated highway excise tax revenues. Under this proposal, every State would still receive at least as much funding as was assumed when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century was enacted. The Committee has chosen to reallocate limited funding within the highway "guarantee." The Senate is encouraged to build upon this and to consider the Administration's proposal as a means to fund these important priorities.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill could severely compromise the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) operations and modernization programs, reduce highway and motor carrier safety, and under-fund other important programs. The Senate could partially accommodate the funding increases recommended below by adhering more closely to the President's requests for the Airport Improvement Program, High Speed Rail, Coast Guard Alteration of Bridges, Coast Guard capital improvements, and other programs.
The following highlights our specific concerns with the Committee bill.
Limitation on States' Allocation of Transit Funding
The Administration strongly opposes the provision that would limit any State's share of transit discretionary and formula grant funding to 12.5 percent of total funding. Transit formula funding distributions were enacted last year in TEA-21 and should not be reopened in an appropriations bill. The Administration and Congress worked together closely to ensure that transit funding is distributed based on need. Clearly, the need is with California and New York, which together have almost half the total transit ridership in the United States. Since transit needs vary widely geographically, it would be inappropriate to impose an "equity distribution" formula that would divert these resources from where they are needed most. We urge the Senate to strike this unacceptable provision so that the bill can rapidly move to conference and be sent to the President in a form that can be signed into law. If a bill were presented to the President that contained this provision, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.
Aviation Safety and Modernization
The funding provided in the Committee bill for FAA operations and modernization would result in major impediments to both of these critical tasks.
The Administration strongly urges the Senate to fully fund the Administration's request for FAA Operations. The $182 million, or three-percent, reduction in the Committee bill would force the FAA to close low-level towers, defer hiring of safety and security personnel needed to meet the demands of increased air travel, and possibly slow air travel.
The Senate is also urged to restore the $274 million, or 12-percent, reduction to the FAA Facilities and Equipment account. Together with the rescission of nearly $300 million proposed by the Committee for this program, this funding level would cripple the ongoing National Airspace System modernization program. Safety and security projects would be delayed or canceled, and critically-needed capacity enhancing projects would be postponed, increasing future air travel delays. The Senate is requested to provide the request of $17 million in critically-needed funding to ensure timely implementation of a Global Positioning System (GPS) modernization plan that will help enable transition to a more efficient, GPS-based air navigation system.
The Administration supports the Committee's decision to eliminate the General Fund subsidy for FAA Operations but urges the Congress to enact the Administration's proposal to finance the agency. Such a system would improve the FAA's efficiency and effectiveness by creating new incentives for it to operate in a business-like manner.
The Administration is disappointed that the Committee bill funds transit formula grants at $212 million below the President's request. In addition, the Administration strongly opposes the Committee's action to cut funding for the Transportation Community Preservation Pilot Program (TCSP) by $11 million, or 22 percent, from the amount guaranteed in TEA-21. The Administration urges the Senate to provide the $50 million requested by the President for TCSP. These programs are important components of the Administration's efforts to provide communities with the tools and resources needed to combat congestion and sprawl.
The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide funding consistent with the recently enacted reauthorization for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's operations and research activities. This would provide an increase of $20.4 million above the Committee bill. This funding would allow expanded Buckle Up America and Partners in Progress efforts in order to meet ambitious alcohol and belt usage goals. It would also provide enhanced crash data collection, increased defects investigations, and crucial research activities on advanced air bags, crashworthiness, and enhanced testing in order to make better car safety information available to the public.
Motor Carrier Safety
The Administration appreciates the Committee's funding of $155 million, the amended request, for the National Motor Carrier Safety Grant Program. This will allow the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety to undertake improvements in the area of motor carrier enforcement, research, and data collection activities that are designed to increase safety on our Nation's roads and highways. The Administration strongly urges the Senate to also provide the additional funding of $5.8 million requested for motor carrier operations.
The Administration commends the Committee for funding Amtrak at $571 million, the President's requested level, and the level called for in Amtrak's "glidepath" to self-sufficiency.
Job Access and Reverse Commute
The Administration is disappointed that the Committee has provided only $75 million -- half of the amount authorized and requested -- for the Job Access and Reverse Commute program. This program is a critical component of the Administration's welfare-to-work effort and is significantly over-subscribed at present. Demand is expected to increase as more communities around the country begin to see how effective the program can be in helping individuals make a successful transition from welfare to work. The Administration urges the Senate to provide full funding at $150 million.
Office of the Secretary
The Administration urges the Senate to provide the President's request of $63 million for the Office of the Secretary and to delete the limitation on political appointees and other restrictions. These adjustments to the Committee bill are necessary to provide the Secretary with the resources to manage the Department effectively. Also, the Senate is requested to restore the seven-percent reduction to the Office of Civil Rights. This reduction would hamper the Department's ability to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination in Federally operated and assisted transportation programs.
Other Language Provisions
The Senate is requested to delete the provision that would restrict the Coast Guard's user fee authority. User fees can help the Coast Guard by providing resources to meet its operating and capital needs without significantly reducing other vital transportation programs. In addition, the Administration is concerned about prematurely encouraging the closure of Coast Guard training facilities without regard to the results of the ongoing Coast Guard review as to the best use of those facilities.
The Senate is requested to delete the provision that would impose a DOT-wide $60 million reduction in obligations to the Transportation Administrative Service Center. This reduction would impose significant constraints on many critical administrative programs.
The Senate is requested to delete Section 316 of the proposed bill, as its applicability to State legislatures represents a significant expansion of the traditional anti-lobbying provision in DOT appropriations acts. This broad, ambiguous provision will chill the informational activities of the Department and limit the ability of the Department to carry out its safety mandate. An expansion beyond the existing requirements of Section 7104 of TEA-21 is unwarranted.
There are several provisions in the bill that purport to require congressional approval before Executive Branch execution of aspects of the bill. The Administration will interpret such provisions to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS vs. Chadha.