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Transpo Committee Dems Submit Deficit-Reduction Ideas to Super Committee

Tomorrow is the deadline for Congressional committees to advise the super committee on how they'd like to see the deficit reduction plan formulated. The Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee submitted theirs today [PDF], divided into three sections: "Creating Jobs," "Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse," and "Promoting Efficiency and Reform of Government."

For transportation, they push for a transportation reauthorization more along the lines of President Obama's long-forgotten $556 billion proposal and less like the House majority's idea of capping spending at $230 billion over six years. (Of course, even the House majority is now backpedaling from those low numbers and hoping to come up with a more robust proposal.)

The Dems also put in a pitch for the American Jobs Act and its $50 billion investment in transportation infrastructure, but after Tuesday's Senate vote, that looks like a moot point.

This proposal rescinds $154.9 million in excess contract authority provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration in the past few years. Most of it comes out of NHTSA's seat belt program, which only ended up awarding one grant, but NHTSA lacks the authority to reallocate the funds. The FTA funds the Committee Democrats propose to rescind are $17.4 million in contract authority for formula and bus grants that were authorized but not appropriated.

They also recommend that the super committee consolidate many of the 108 transportation programs -- a plank of every proposal that's come out this year -- and set performance targets to ensure that federal transportation funds are spent wisely and efficiently. "Currently, DOT does not measure how Federal transportation investment achieves national goals, nor does the Department distribute funding based on performance criteria," the committee Democrats write. "The budgetary impact of specific performance measures will result in much more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, and provide taxpayers with tangible and measurable results for their investments."

The budgetary impact of these efficiency measures is not estimated in the report to the super committee.

The report also recommends using federal highway dollars to reduce bridge deficiencies, which they say would then reduce the amount of bridge funding needed in future surface transportation authorization bills.

The super committee is gathering ideas from many Congressional committees in order to make its final decisions on how to cut up to $1.5 trillion from the budget deficit. They will vote on the plan by Thanksgiving and pass it off to Congress by December 2, so that Congress can vote on it by Christmas. A series of "automatic" cuts and measures will be enacted if the super committee fails to act, or if Congress fails to pass its recommendations.

Republicans on the Transportation Committee have not yet submitted their ideas, but they plan to.

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