TEA-21: Surface Transportation
"Rebuilding America-The Time is Now!"
By Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
August 10, 2007
Congress approved and President Bush signed H.R. 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) on August 10, 2005. SAFETEA-LU is a $286.5 billion highway and mass transit bill aimed at enhancing safety, economic productivity, economic growth, and reducing traffic congestion and pollution.
In 1998, Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President signed into law, TEA-21 to reauthorize funding for the nation's highway and transit programs. TEA-21 authorized $218 billion for highway, transit, research, and motor carrier programs over six years (1998 - 2003). The measure expired on September 30, 2003, and Congress passed twelve extensions when it was unable to agree on a long-term reauthorization.
The Chamber fought for increased funding for infrastructure and that the integrity of the Highway Trust Fund would be maintained. TEA-21 established budgetary rules that create a "firewall" or funding guarantee which requires highway user taxes to be fully invested in their intended purpose of fixing our nation's surface transportation infrastructure.
U.S. Chamber Position
A major focus of the Chamber — along with our coalition Americans for Transportation Mobility — is ensuring Congress and the administration continue to meet the commitments made through SAFETEA-LU, and preparing for the challenges that the next surface transportation reauthorization will pose.
SAFETEA-LU utilizes all available revenues projected to be collected by the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) through fiscal year 2009 for surface transportation improvements. However, recent budget projections by the administration and Congressional Budget Office show that the HTF have a negative $4.3 billion balance in fiscal year 2009. The Chamber believes that Congress should ensure that HTF revenues are sufficient to support the guaranteed funding levels in SAFETEA-LU and Congress should not cut the obligation limitation for the federal-aid Highway Program in order to achieve HTF solvency. The Chamber supports Highway Trust Fund solvency proposals including, but not limited to, the following:
- Reimbursing the Highway Trust Fund for emergency expenditures paid out of the fund since 1998.
- Restructuring current fuel tax exemptions and the refunds provided to state and local governments to be General Fund supported activities in a manner that holds current exemption recipients harmless.
- Implementing additional mechanisms to further crack down on fuel tax evasion.
- Ensuring that all federal revenues generated from the use of highway infrastructure are deposited into the Highway Trust Fund.
We will continue to mobilize our grassroots to ensure that the nation's transportation system is fully funded and meets the business community's needs. The Chamber continues to work on measures to reduce unnecessary government red tape that delays the completion of transportation projects.
Testimony of Chamber Senior Vice President Rolf Lundberg on Administration's Proposed Budget FY 2005 for the Federal Transit Administration — March 25, 2004 (PDF, 147K)
Key Vote Alert on TEA-21 Reauthorization — February 12, 2004 (PDF, 69K)
Letter to Senate on TEA-21 Reauthorization — February 2, 2004 (PDF, 50K)