Statements and Speeches
WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, attended the Senate Finance Committee hearing on “New Routes for Funding and Financing Highways and Transit.”
A copy of Sen. Carper's remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:
“I want to thank Chairman Wyden for having this important hearing on funding and financing our national highways and transit system. I also want to thank our excellent panel of our witnesses for the varied perspectives they offer on this critical issue.
“During today’s hearing we’ll hear about a lot of creative ways of financing projects through public-private partnerships, municipal bonds, TIFIA, Build America Bonds, and other debt mechanisms. All of these are helpful tools that many states could use to stretch dollars further under certain circumstances.
“However, none of them is a substitute for dedicated long-term funding. The Highway Trust Fund is headed quickly toward insolvency this summer. The latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office is that a new six-year transportation bill would require about $100 billion in new revenue or transfers from the general fund to maintain current levels of spending. Congress’s decision about how to pay for this bill will dictate the success of the transportation program. We can either scrape by with unrelated offsets to extend the program a few months at a time, or we can work together on a real, long-term solution to funding this bill that will benefit nearly every business and resident across the country.
“This is a problem that has been festering since 2009, when the Blue Ribbon Commission Congress created to find solutions to this very problem issued its report. That commission brought us more than 25 ideas for solving this issue, but we’ve largely ignored it. Instead, by keeping the Highway Trust Fund afloat with transfers from the General Fund, we’ve added more than $54 billion to the national debt. Now we’re faced with a stark decision: continue transferring money into the Highway Trust Fund or dramatically scale back badly needed investments in our nation’s transportation infrastructure.
“States and cities across the country – red and blue, urban and rural - are doing their part by raising revenues to invest in innovative transportation projects. In the last two years, 17 states and the District of Columbia have found new revenue for transportation by increasing their gas taxes, indexing them to rise automatically, or through increases from previous indexing. Yet, without a federal partner, 21 states plan to cut back on their capital investment program in 2014 and 2015, and eight more are rebalancing their investments from more expensive long-term capital projects to less expensive planning and maintenance projects. If we choose not to address the funding shortfall with a long-term solution, however, we will be undermining the ability of our states to do new multi-year projects most important to local economies and private sector business.
“In Congress, we need to follow the lead of states around the country to support this partnership by finding solutions to return the Highway Trust Fund to solvency. I can attest that the Environment and Public Works Committee is hard at work evaluating promising new policies to address transportation challenges more efficiently and cost-effectively, getting the taxpayer better bang for the buck. I look forward to continuing to work with this committee to figure out the most responsible way to pay for it.”