In Violation of MAP-21 Promises, House Votes to Cut Transportation Spending

The House of Representatives voted to subtract $785 million from the transportation budget this week, trimming dollars from transit, New Starts and highway safety programs as part of a “continuing resolution” measure that will set spending levels through 2013.

South Dakota's Tim Johnson is part of a group of powerful senators who oppose a House measure that would slash transportation funding. Image: Senator Tim Johnson

The vote, coming on the heels of last week’s mandatory budget cuts from the sequester, goes against the funding requirements set by MAP-21, the two-year transportation bill that was laboriously pounded out last year.

The legislation passed 267-151 margin, with 50 Democrats voting yea.

The bill’s passage in the House met with some consternation in the upper chamber. Senators Jay Rockefeller, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) — chairs of the Commerce, Environment and Public Works, and Banking Committees, respectively — responded to the bill’s introduction earlier this week with a letter condemning the cuts and calling for a restoration of the funding. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the trio said the funding cuts would cost the country 25,000 jobs.

The last continuing resolution, which funded the first six months of FY 2013, also cut funding below the levels agreed upon in the transportation bill. But this time the cuts go further, the senators said in the letter:

Last September, we wrote to voice our concerns that the FY 2013 continuing resolution to fund the government through March 27, 2013, failed to honor the funding levels included in MAP-21. The reduction of funding included in that continuing resolution resulted in states receiving fewer funds to repair their roads and bridges and put construction workers back to work, and shortchanges critical transportation safety programs. At that time, according to CQ, a Republican spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee stated that the appropriate spending levels would be “overridden when a full-year transportation appropriations bill is enacted.”

Instead, the House has proposed a continuing resolution to complete FY 2013 that includes even more egregious cuts to transportation.

The senators continued:

For the businesses and the working people of this country, for the drivers of cars and trucks, for the users of public transportation, for the safety of our families in this country, and for this economy, the House should restore the funding authorized.

As Roll Call reported, this measure could come down to yet another government funding standoff. A government shutdown could happen at the end of this month if the two chambers can’t agree on a way to fund the government for the rest of the year.

If Senate Democrats refuse to approve the House’s spending cuts — or the House refuses to rescind them — a potential shutdown becomes an increasingly likely scenario.