Shuster: Obama transportation funding proposal ‘recycled’

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The chairman of the House Transportation Committee said Wednesday that President Obama’s proposal to use revenue from closing tax loopholes to increase transportation funding was “little more than recycled sound bites from old speeches.”

Obama said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night that lawmakers could “take the money we save with … tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes.”

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Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said the president’s proposal was short on ideas for specific amounts of money.

“I welcome the president’s interest in improving our infrastructure,” Shuster said in a statement. “We have significant long-term infrastructure needs that must be addressed and responsibly paid for to improve our economic competitiveness, efficiency, and quality of life. However, instead of showing leadership on these critical issues, the President offered little more than recycled sound bites from old speeches.”

The House Transportation chief compared Obama’s State of the Union remarks to his previous calls for spending more on infrastructure improvements.

“Almost two years ago, the president called for improving the performance of federal permitting and review of infrastructure projects,” Shuster said. “Since that time he has reiterated that message numerous times as part of his ‘We Can’t Wait’ initiative, and did so once again last night. I applaud the president’s goals of slashing bureaucracy and streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure projects, but we are still waiting for action.”

Obama called for Congress to renew the current funding bill for road and transit projects by this summer. It is scheduled to expire in September.

The measure authorizes the collection of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax that has traditionally been used to pay for transportation projects. But the gas tax only brings in approximately $35 billion per year, while the 2012 bill included $54 billion in spending, which advocates say is barely enough to maintain the current state of the U.S. transportation system.

Lawmakers used revenue from other areas of the federal budget to cover the shortfall in the 2012 legislation. The Department of Transportation has forecast that the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money this year if Congress does not appropriate revenue this year.

Shuster did not offer specific proposals on Wednesday for funding sources either, but he said he was “committed to moving forward with fiscally responsible transportation solutions to promote competitiveness and economic growth, reform programs, and focus our resources where they are needed most.”