House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced late yesterday that he is scrapping "revamping" his much-maligned transportation legislation (H.R. 7). In the face of intense opposition from a long list of outside groups -- ranging from NRDC to the Club for Growth -- as well as "friendly fire" from fellow Republican lawmakers, the proposed five-year, $260 billion surface transportation authorization will no longer be put up for a floor vote next week.
According to reports, Speaker Boehner instead will come back with a shorter, reduced cost bill that drops the controversial scheme to cut off dedicated federal funding for public transportation. This is a major victory!
Although he's blinking on the transit issue, Boehner is still pushing a transportation bill to nowhere. The new (yet not improved) bill has fundamental flaws and therefore faces quite a challenge in Congress -- as well it should.
A major problem with the legislation is that it would be paired with a bill the House passed last week (HR 3408), which destroys the "user-pays principle" by linking infrastructure funding to a new oil and gas drilling. NRDC has repeatedly denounced the GOP "drill and drive" scheme, as have a number of fiscal conservative groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense. Heck, some 21 Republican legislators even voted against this blatant giveaway to Big Oil. (Teddy Roosevelt would be so proud!) According to new analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Boehner's plan to open up just about every inch of our lands and offshore to drilling would not generate enough revenue to keep the House bill from bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund by 2016 and creating a $78 billion funding shortfall over a ten-year period.
Besides drilling, the House transportation bill will contain many other harmful provisions, such as project expediting and environmental "streamlining" (more like "extremelining"). This essentially would stop environmental reviews of highway projects and demolish public participation. (My colleague Deron Lovaas provides those dirty details.)
Moreover, the House transportation bill also would slash funds for Amtrak and clean air programs. It would end the “Safe Routes to School” program and other dedicated funding to make streets safer for walking and bicycling. And it would eliminate the bridge repair program, offloading responsibility for thousands of deficient bridges to local governments.
Indeed, this is still the worst transportation bill ever -- and if it were to become law it would leave Americans with worse traffic, more oil dependence, dirtier air, and ruined landscapes. All the more reason to kill this bill. You can help by taking action today.