Proposed federal budget would cut transportation spending by 31 percent

Click above to download the pdf document.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) on Tuesday released his proposed “Path to Prosperity” [pdf] federal budget blueprint for the years 2012 to 2021.

It cuts federal transportation spending by 31 percent, according to Transportation Weekly. In particular, the proposal seeks to reduce highway and transit spending and would decline to fund high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects that can’t turn a profit.

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times’ Caucus blog about the budget proposal:

Republicans in the House of Representatives are poised to place a dramatic political bet.

Led by the wonkish Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, they will unveil a 2012 budget on Tuesday that wagers their political futures on the assumption that voters are ready to accept tough changes in the most sacrosanct government programs.

The budget they are preparing to embrace in the coming days would slash federal government spending by more than $6 trillion over the next 10 years, mostly by reinventing the nation’s largest social programs in ways that Republicans have talked about for years.

The transportation proposals are on page 32 and 33 of the budget proposal. And the impact on Metro? Hard to say at this point, but Metro certainly uses federal grants for a variety of projects, from purchasing buses to building new rail lines. And, of course, Metro is pursuing the America Fast Forward initiative to increase access to federal financing to build more transit.

Of course, like many government budgets, this is a political document as well as a financial one and how it plays out remains to be seen. Democrats have the majority in the Senate and hold the Presidency, which will make passage very difficult for Republicans. But it’s a document likely to be much discussed in the 19 month campaign leading to the 2012 elections.

Excerpts on transportation from the Path to Prosperity follow:

To make up for funding shortfalls, the trust fund has required three large transfusions of taxpayer dollars from general revenues, totaling $35 billion since 2008. Without reform, another infusion will be necessary in 2013. This budget anticipates that Congress can keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent without additional general fund transfers or increases in the gasoline tax by consolidating dozens of separate highway programs that GAO has identified as duplicative. This will help focus every dollar on pursuing a targeted and cohesive national transportation policy…

Since 2008, funding for the Department of Transportation has grown by 24 percent – and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year. The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending. Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.

In the wake of these failures, and with the federal government’s fiscal challenges making long-term subsidization infeasible, high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services. The threat of large, endless subsidies is precisely the reason governors across the country are rejecting federally-funded high-speed rail projects. This budget eliminates these projects, which have failed numerous and clear cost-benefit analyses.

1 reply

  1. This clearly illustrates my point that “federal money doesn’t continue to flow in forever.”