Among the key bills the new Congress will consider is transportation and infrastructure funding. It will also review the Highway Trust Fund, due to become insolvent at the end of May. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin was among governors testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today about state-level transportation funding concerns.
The Senate committee hearing: “The Importance of MAP-21 Reauthorization: Federal and State Perspectives” featured testimony from the U.S. Transportation Secretary and a panel of governors who provided state perspectives on the need for long-term federal investment in surface transportation and mass transit infrastructure.
Committee member Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders cited data from the World Economic Forum that ranks the U.S. 12th in infrastructure stability. “In the state of Vermont we have the same infrastructural problems that every other state in the country has. We have communities with a whole lot of potholes. We have congestion. We have bridges that are in disrepair. There is a lot of division in the Congress today but I would hope that on this issue there is a common understanding that we are doing our kids and grandchildren a great disservice if we don’t own up to the infrastructure that we have right now.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said economic prosperity, national security and the ability to improve quality of life depend upon fixing the country’s crumbling and aging infrastructure. “We sometimes forget that 80-percent of our transportation network runs through our rural states. So if you take Vermont as a example, and many other rural states are in the same boat bordering Canada, we are the transportation conduit to our biggest trading partner in America - Canada. Projections are that in the next three decades we’re going to see our freight transportation increase by 50-percent. And we have a crumbling infrastructure right now. So in terms of jobs and prosperity the rural states actually carry a bigger burden because we’ve got more to maintain and that infrastructure is crumbling and it’s gotta be rebuilt.”
Transportation infrastructure is a priority for fellow Democrat Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, whose State of the State address three weeks ago was dedicated to the issue. “We know that transportation and economic growth are bound together. States that make long-term investments in their infrastructure can have vibrant economies for generations. States that don’t will struggle. It is that simple.”
Malloy was scheduled to testify at the Senate hearing, but Governor Shumlin relayed his apologies, noting Connecticut’s leader was dealing with the aftermath of this week’s snowstorm. “We got whacked pretty hard in the Northeast, a little bit of a snowstorm on our transportation infrastructure. He would be here if he were not digging out.”
The governors appearing before the committee agreed that short-term or temporary funding must end in lieu of long-term legislation. Republican Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said funding certainty is the most important consideration. “Over the past five or six years we have not had that certainty. We need it to plan.”
Governor Shumlin agreed. “The more certainty you can give us the better. Governor Bentley and I have both served in an environment where we’ve been working month to month. So, needless to say, the more certainty you can give us, the longer period of time, the happier all governors will be.”
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that new revenues needed for The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, bill range from 25 to 85 billion dollars, depending on the reauthorization timeframe.