Week ahead: House to inspect DOT 2015 budget

Lawmakers in the Republican-led House will get a chance to take aim at President Obama’s $90.9 billion request for the Department of Transportation’s 2015 budget this week.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday titled “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Implementation of MAP-21 and Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request for Surface Transportation.”

Officials from the DOT, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety are scheduled to testify before the panel.

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In addition to the $90 billion request for the transportation department, Obama called for Congress to approve a new four-year, $302 billion bill for road and transit projects in his 2015 budget proposal last week.

Transportation advocates have pushed for an even longer road and transit funding bill than Obama has proposed, arguing that state and local governments need certainty for long-term infrastructure projects that require federal funds.

Previous versions of the surface transportation bill have lasted five or six years, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected that it would require $100 billion in new revenue for Congress to pass a six-year bill now.

The bulk of the non-DOT funding in Obama’s 2015 budget that is earmarked for transportation is intended to supplement the federal government’s Highway Trust Fund that is at the center of the infrastructure funding problem.

The trust fund is usually used to pay to pay for infrastructure projects that are not covered by the transportation department’s recurring programs. The fund’s coffers are usually filled by revenue from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, but receipts from the fuel levy are down in recent years as cars get better gas mileage and driving in America is down due to economic conditions.

Obama called for Congress to use $150 billion from closing corporate tax loopholes to cover a shortfall that has been caused by a nearly $20 billion annual difference in gas tax collections and transportation spending.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will also be in the spotlight this week as the House Transportation Committee holds a hearing on Tuesday titled “Modernizing the Aviation System: Leveraging the Assets of the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center.”

Representatives from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) and Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) are scheduled to testify before the panel.