Americans for Transportation Mobility Letter Supporting Funding for Highways and Public Transportation in any Legislation to Address the Need to Create Near-Term Jobs
December 8, 2009
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:
Should Congress work to develop legislation to help address persistent unemployment, the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition strongly urges you to provide robust investment for highways and public transportation, while simultaneously making every effort to restore certainty to the underlying federal transportation programs.
Strong federal highway and transit investment is an invaluable tool to create jobs. With nearly 9,500 "ready to go" highway, bridge and transit projects valued at approximately $62 billion, funding additional near-term infrastructure efforts could help reduce unemployment across all economic sectors while providing lasting investments for all Americans. It is imperative, however, that any additional funding be built on strong underlying core programs and continued state and local investments.
Unfortunately, reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) is now on its second short-term extension, and the uncertainty surrounding reauthorization is leading to many delayed or cancelled longer-term projects. The jobs impact of the delay in reauthorization has rippled throughout the economy. Workers at design and engineering firms, construction companies, equipment manufacturers, and materials providers have lost their jobs and even more positions are on the line due to uncertainty in federal funding. While the economy is showing some signs of recovery, the construction industry unemployment rate is now a staggering 19.4 percent.
The ATM strongly supports a robust six-year reauthorization supported by an increase in user fees. While current economic considerations may force the Administration and Congress to chart a different course for short-term funding for a job's measure, it is imperative that Congress does not abandon the "user fee" foundation for the long-term reauthorization of the federal highway and transit programs. The "user fee" system has been in place since 1956 and has been a stable source of federal highway and transit funding for decades and have offered states, localities and industry the predictability and consistency necessary for capital investment.
Should Congress pursue a jobs bill, the ATM also believes that new funding for infrastructure should supplement, not supplant, state investments. According to the National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers biannual Fiscal Survey of the States, 21 states sliced their transportation funds in 2009, and 25 states plan cuts in that sector in 2010. If the objective of this legislation is to create new jobs, Congress must strengthen state maintenance of effort provisions to ensure federal spending is not a substitute for state dollars.
The ATM coalition is pleased that infrastructure investment is being discussed as central part of legislative proposals to reduce unemployment. We strongly urge you to include funding for highways and public transportation in any legislation to address the need to create near-term jobs and to prioritize highway and public transportation reauthorization in order to support those jobs in the long term.
Americans for Transportation Mobility