Options listed in the letter include rescinding funds previously provided for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, transferring money from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, reclaiming Highway Trust Fund receipts transferred to other programs, authorizing expanded domestic oil and natural gas drilling, and rescinding other unspent federal funds.
"We believe it is in the best interest of the nation for states to be provided the certainty guaranteed by a surface transportation reauthorization bill," states the letter signed by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah and the Finance Committee's ranking minority member; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma; and John Thune, R-South Dakota. "In addition, we think it would be a mistake to raise fuel or other taxes given the fragile economic climate the country is currently afflicted with."
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act" last month. The measure now awaits consideration by the Senate commerce and banking committees (regarding railroad, safety, and transit provisions) and the Senate Finance Committee (to fully fund the measure). MAP-21 (S 1813) depends on the Finance Committee finding $12 billion in offsets to supplement projected Highway Trust Fund revenue for the next two years. (see Nov. 10 AASHTO Journal story)
The seven senators identify as potential offsets $3.5 billion that could come from unspent Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program funds, tapping into the $3.5 billion Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund balance (which comes from a 0.1-cent-per-gallon tax on motor fuels), reclamation of $573 million in HTF funds transferred to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, diverting a portion of future Outer Continental Shelf drilling royalties to the HTF instead of the LWCF, and generating up to $5.2 billion in new OCS revenue by allowing expanded drilling.
"We also want to note that there are many ways current funding for highways could be spent more efficiently," the letter states. "We offer the suggestions in this letter as a commitment to you of our willingness to work together to provide for the creation and maintenance of transportation infrastructure that enhances our economy."
The four-page letter is available at bit.ly/MAP21offsets.