July 24, 2013
As prepared for delivery:
As I've said here before, I believe in federal infrastructure spending and see it as one of the primary purposes of government. Given our enormous infrastructure needs it is difficult to imagine that the next highway bill could ever meet all of these needs. Not only do we need to get the most for our federal highway dollar, but we also need to incentivize state and local governments and the private sector to invest as much as possible in roads and bridges.
This hearing is an opportunity to examine the progress of one of the most important financing tools in MAP-21, which is essential in leveraging finite federal funds with state, local and private sector resources. I think it’s also important to recognize the TIFIA program impact on the proliferation of public-private partnerships in this country. Now that TIFIA funding can constitute up to 49% of total project costs, multi-billion projects are now able to access the private markets to borrow for the remaining project cost.
TIFIA has helped unleash an enormous amount of private investment in public infrastructure. This financing source is important to helping us address our infrastructure crisis.
Although it took some time to really get going, over the last decade this program has become hugely popular. Last I checked the TIFIA office had received letters of interest for over $40 billion worth of projects since MAP-21 became law. Unfortunately, since the passage of MAP-21 last August there has been tremendous criticism of the inefficiency of the administration of the very loans we are trying to promote. There is no point in providing almost 15 times the funding provided in SAFETEA–LU for TIFIA if it prevents resources from being used for their intended purpose. It is essential that we address institutional obstacles currently preventing optimal use of TIFIA and any ideas Secretary Foxx and our distinguished panel have regarding how we overcome these challenges.
Finally, even with a fully funded and optimized TIFIA program, we must inevitably turn our attention to the shortfall in the highway trust fund. CBO said in April that absent additional revenue in the trust fund, we will be faced with a 92% cut in any new highway funding, meaning most all trust fund receipts will be used to reimburse states for projects that are already under construction. Although I would prefer that we successfully identify a sustainable funding source, I have suggested in the past that it is reasonable to resort to the general fund, as we have 5 times before, when faced with no alternative other than a series of short term extensions to expiring highway bills.
I am a fiscal conservative, but I will spend big in two different areas: Defense and Infrastructure. During consideration of MAP-21, the American Conservative Union correctly came out and stated that a new highway reauthorization was the conservative course of action. It is the extensions that end up costing us because of the inability to plan for the future.
The Administration and Congress to this point have failed to suggest a solution to the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. With the expiration of MAP-21 13 months away, I remain committed to working with Senators Boxer and Vitter, and my other EPW colleagues, to find a solution.