|May 19, 2000
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001, as reported by the House Committee. As the House develops its version of the bill, your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to accommodate many of the Administration's priorities in its bill. These include 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 and address Coast Guard readiness and expand its operations.
The Administration proposes 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. Under this proposal, every State would receive at least as much funding as was assumed when TEA-21 was enacted. Last year, Congress chose to use the Transportation appropriations bill to redistribute almost $1.5 billion in funding within the highway "guarantee" in a manner different than that contemplated in TEA-21. The House is encouraged to redistribute a similar amount this year to support these important priorities.
In particular, as noted below, the Administration is concerned that the Committee bill could adversely impact the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) operations as well as highway and pipeline safety programs.
The following highlights our specific concerns with the Committee bill. We look forward to working with you to resolve these issues as the bill moves forward.
The Administration strongly urges the House to fully fund the Administration's request for FAA Operations. The Committee has provided $48 million less than the Administration's request, and added $11 million in unrequested items, resulting in $59 million in FAA programs being unfunded. This would force the FAA to reduce telecommunications, radar operations, and other services necessary to maintain a safe, efficient air traffic control system.
In recent years, the United States has had a significant increase in transportation fuel consumption and a corresponding increase in U.S. energy vulnerability. As a result of prohibitions enacted by Congress in recent years on working on the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, the Department of Transportation has been banned from fully analyzing this important issue. The Administration strongly opposes the Committee provision that continues this prohibition. In the past, CAFE standards have resulted in a doubling of the fuel economy of the car fleet, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and saving the Nation billions of gallons of oil and the consumer billions of dollars. Continuing this misguided prohibition would contribute to more energy consumption, and therefore would increase both environmental and energy security risks.
Highway and Pipeline Safety
The Administration is concerned that the Committee has provided $105 million less than the President has requested for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Operations and Research account. This funding reduction would limit critical research on crash worthiness and prevent the implementation of important new programs to increase seat belt use and target high-risk groups. The Administration is also concerned that the Committee has provided $4.5 million less than requested to enhance pipeline safety.
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's failure to provide the $69 million requested for the Mississippi Delta initiative. This comprehensive initiative is necessary to address 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 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. In some Delta counties, unemployment rates are two to three times higher than the national average. 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.
The House is requested to provide the full $358 million request to improve 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 with needed access to jobs and improved construction training opportunities. In addition, the Administration urges the House to restore the $5 million for design and preliminary engineering of the Four Bears Bridge in North Dakota.
The Administration strongly opposes the Committee's proposed rescission of $60 million for the Farley/Pennsylvania Station project. Such a rescission would jeopardize the project's complex financing package. This project will generate significant transportation and economic benefits. Its timely completion is essential to respond effectively to the significant rail ridership increases projected for the Northeast corridor in the near future.
Job Access and Reverse Commute
The House 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. This program is oversubscribed now. Demand is expected to increase as more communities across the country 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 House to provide the President's request of $69 million for the Office of the Secretary and to delete the limitation on political appointees and other restrictions. These adjustments are necessary to provide the Secretary with the resources and flexibility to manage the Department effectively.
The Administration is concerned that the House may add language that has been added in another appropriations bill in the House this year regarding the Kyoto protocol and climate change. This language is unacceptable and may well be unconstitutional. The Administration will not accept any appropriations language that limits activities under current law to reduce greenhouse gasses, or that restricts the President's constitutional authority to negotiate international agreements. As we have stated many times, the Administration has not, and will not, attempt to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to ratification. Consequently, such language should not be added since it would be unwarranted, disruptive, and could be interpreted as unconstitutionally preventing the Department of Transportation from assisting the President in carrying out his constitutional authority to conduct international negotiations.
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's excessive 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.