As we, like Congress, begin our “recess,” we decided to offer some early predictions about 2014 federal transportation issues. It’s not an exhaustive list, and these may not be the most important five issues, but it’s a place to start.
Congress approves WRDA. Since Senate-House negotiations are already underway, it is easy to predict that Congress will pass a water infrastructure/transportation bill early in January.
Note: this is our last story for 2013. Look for transportation-related photos from our holiday travels on one of our pages:
Sequester eased: Assuming the Murray/Ryan budget compromise is enacted, transportation funding avoids the more steep cuts for two years. Biggest beneficiaries: aviation programs, and the TIGER program. Look for TIGER to be funded for FY 2014 and FY 2015.
MAP-21 drafts coming sooner than later: Look for Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Bill Shuster to publish draft authorization bills by late Spring. They’ll each build off their success in passing a bipartisan water infrastructure bill out of their respective Committees and Chambers. Boxer is also building off her success in working with the minority in passing MAP-21. Boxer and Shuster will be anxious to get drafts out on the street and get the debate started because….
Authorization debate may be the most difficult ever: The stakes for reauthorization are perhaps the highest ever because of the looming fiscal crater. We’ll be discussing a federal gas tax increase or replacing the gas tax, while others will talk about cutting/reforming transportation spending. That’s because gas revenue continues to decline, and many of the financial measures used to pay for MAP-21 are unlikely to be available again. (Read what a panel of experts told Senator Boxer and others in a hearing about transportation funding.)
Also, look for environmental reform issues to become a flashpoint. Generally speaking, Democratic Members believe they compromised on many environmental reforms of MAP-21, and that few if any further reforms are needed (or will be supported). Republican Members in general believe MAP-21’s reforms were a good start, but many more reforms are necessary.
Ongoing debate about transit funding – mirroring the WA state debate
Solutions and innovations will continue to shift to state and local government: More state and local governments will look within themselves to raise revenue and pursue innovation solutions for addressing the growing backlog of infrastructure repairs and maintenance. Fewer state and local governments will be willing to wait for Congress and the White House to pass a bill. And until it is about to happen, people will be skeptical that Congress can pass a transportation bill on time, and a bill that provides adequate funding.
But remember – we got MAP-21 and WRRDA. So be optimistic, and support Boxer, Shuster and their fellow Members in their work.
As for a prediction about a bill passing in 2014? We’re not ready to make a prediction yet, but we’re strongly leaning toward Yes It Will Pass.
Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.