What the GOP Spending Rollback Would Mean for Transportation

Back in September, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), now Speaker-elect, told Good Morning America he wanted to “pass a bill this month at 2008 spending levels – you know, before the TARP, before the bailouts, before the stimulus – and let’s put some certainty in the economy.”

He continued, “That in itself would save about 100 billion this year alone.”

Boehner told Good Morning America he wants to roll spending back to 2008 levels. Where does that leave transpo? Image: ##http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/09/08/john-boehner-deflects-questions-about-his-tan-on-gma-video/##TV Squad##
Boehner told Good Morning America he wants to roll spending back to 2008 levels. Where does that leave transpo? Image: ##http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/09/08/john-boehner-deflects-questions-about-his-tan-on-gma-video/##TV Squad##

Boehner didn’t get his wish of passing such a bill before the election. But he’s about to become Speaker of the House, and starting in January, it’ll be a whole lot easier to get his way.

The Pledge to America that Republicans signed onto during the campaign echoes Boehner’s spending-cut ethos:

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to prestimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

In 2008 – the year Boehner mentioned to George Stephanopoulos – transportation spending levels were $41.6 billion for highways and $9.7 billion for transit. The TIGER program didn’t exist yet in 2008. High speed rail funding – already considered a likely first target for cuts – would be a goner for sure.

“If it’s going back to 2008 levels but the programs remain, that’s one thing,” said Will Schroeer, Policy and Research Director at Smart Growth America. “If it’s going back only to 2008 programs, then that would be much more problematic.”

Besides, if the Republicans want to roll spending levels back to 2008, they’re still going to be trapped in deficit spending.

“The 2008 budget levels for transportation exceed the revenues coming in to the highway trust fund,” said Joshua Schank, director of transportation research at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “So, what that would mean is that they’re going to be continuing to spend more than they’re taking in and continuing to increase the inevitable deficit that will come after the latest general fund infusion into the highway trust fund runs out.”

Schank says Rep. John Mica, the incoming Transportation Committee chair, doesn’t consider that kind of deficit spending viable.

Further, the 2008 transportation budget included earmarks. If the Republicans follow through with their earmark ban as promised, Schank said, “there’s going to be money flying around” to be used some other way.

“They’re not going to want to put it into discretionary programs that the executive can do something with,” Schank said. “So they’ll probably have to pump them into some existing program, and which ones they choose will be a battle.”

Either way, less federal transportation money – at a time of mounting demand for greater investments in infrastructure – will leave states with an even more disproportionate burden than before,

“Most state DOTs are in some stage of fiscal crisis right now,” Will Schroeer said. “This wouldn’t help.”

  • MAT

    Boehner doesn’t seem to understand that you can “put certainty in the economy” without destroying it.

    Q: “Mr. Boehner, can we increase investment in our nation’s infrastructure to ensure safety and productivity, create jobs, and remain competitive in the global economy?”

    A: “Hell no you can’t!”

  • JJJ

    Why save $100 billion if you’re just going to turn around and spend $900 billion in tax cuts?

  • @JJJ: are you really asking this?

  • Is the cap on pre-tax employee transit contributions betting cut in half
    or extended ?

    =========================== Mini-FAQ from 2009

    Q. What is the economic stimulus package?
    A. Officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this bill was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009 to provide financial relief for a severely weakened U.S. economy. The bill offers several tax-cutting and Federal investment measures, including a provision to increase the transit benefit cap from its current $120 a month limit to $230. By providing these additional tax savings, commuters can recoup up to $1,000 or more a year in tax-free savings for the necessary cost of travel to and from the workplace. And by placing this transit limit on the same level as the current parking benefit limit, the more attractive incentive to choose transit as a mode of transportation over driving could reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, which is the environmental value of this benefit.

    Q. When does the new pretax amount for transit benefits go into effect?
    A. The new law goes into effect for the February benefit month or as of February 1, 2009. If you distribute benefits directly to your employees at the workplace you may begin ordering TransitChek benefit products at the new cap level starting today using the TransitChek Order Form.

    If benefits are provided directly to your employees through the TransitChek Premium program via mail or electronic funding, specific instructions will be provided by TransitCenter to help you adjust your program to the new levels as quickly as possible. Employees can receive their benefit at the new level for use on June 1, 2009.

    Q. What is the maximum my employees can deduct?
    A. The new Federal limit allows your employees to deduct up to $230 a month of pretax salary to pay for transit and vanpool commuting expenses and $230 a month for commuter parking.
    ===========================

  • robert

    Want to save us some money? Get us out of Iraq and Afganistan!! These wars were based largely upon the ridiculous premise that it is possible to convert predominently Muslim countires into democracies, which it clearly isn’t. If Iraq were a legitimate democracy, the Christian population in the Middle East would be migrating to that country instead of fleeing from it by the hundreds of thousands, and it wouldn’t have Sharia Law incorporated into its constitution, which it does.

    These wars have been a collosal waste of money and lives, started by a president (Bush) who in his youth used the National Guard to dodge having to go to Vietnam. But that’s appropriate. The biggest supporters of these wars are neo-conservatives, few of whom actually volunteer to go and fight themselves.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Conference Devolves Into Talk of Extensions

|
If you were still hoping a real bill could come out of the transportation conference, here’s a bitter pill: House Speaker John Boehner is now talking about a six-month extension of the current law. That extension would expire at the end of the year, along with such a massive bundle of economic initiatives that the […]

Boehner Masks GOP Attack on Safe Streets By Opposing Flowers

|
House Speaker John Boehner spoke to reporters yesterday morning. His message: “Republicans Relentlessly Focused on Jobs.” “House Republicans want to get a highway bill done,” he said. “We want a bill, and our colleagues are working toward producing a bill. We just want to make sure it’s a bill that includes real reforms, to ensure […]