[By Keith Laing of The Hill]
The budget unveiled Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would slash transportation spending in an effort to as part of an effort to cut federal spending by $5.7 trillion.
The plan from Ryan, who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is intended to balance the federal budget by the year 2023.
The Ryan budget will serve as the House GOP’s answer to President Obama’s spending proposals, which are expected to be released later this year.
But whereas Obama has called repeatedly for increasing transportation, Ryan said that the DOT was rife with possibilities for cutting spending.
“While no federal department is free of inefficiency, the Department of Transportation in particular offered a number of areas where spending could be cut back responsibly,” he wrote in an explanation of his proposals. “In the first two years of the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Transportation grew by 24 percent—and that doesn’t count the stimulus spike, which nearly doubled transportation spending in one year.
“The mechanisms of federal highway and transit spending have become distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible, and often downright wasteful spending,” Ryan continued. “Further, however worthy some highway projects might be, their capacity as job creators has been vastly oversold, as demonstrated by the extravagant but unfulfilled promises that accompanied the 2009 stimulus bill, particularly with regard to high-speed rail.”
The Ryan budget, which has been dubbed “The Path For Prosperity,” leaves the appropriation levels for agencies like the DOT to committees that have jurisdiction over them.
However, the proposal calls for the elimination of funding for high-speed rail proposals that have been championed by the Obama administration.
“In the wake of these failures, high-speed rail and other new intercity rail projects should be pursued only if they can be established as self-supporting commercial services,” Ryan wrote. “The threat of large, endless subsidies is precisely the reason governors across the country are rejecting federally funded high- speed-rail projects. This budget eliminates these projects, which have failed numerous and clear cost- benefit analyses.”
Democrats sharply criticized the Ryan budget on Tuesday, focusing on the plans call for lowering the tax rate for the wealthiest U.S. earners to 25 percent.
“While the House Republican budget aims to reduce the deficit, the math just doesn’t add up,” the White House said in a statement.
“Deficit reduction that asks nothing from the wealthiest Americans has serious consequences for the middle class,” the White House statement continued. “By choosing to give the wealthiest Americans a new tax cut, this budget as written will either fail to achieve any meaningful deficit reduction, raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000 – or both.”
Transportation advocates lamented the cuts as well, arguing that they would worsen mobility in the U.S.
“There is no question that the Ryan Budget plan released today would devastate our transportation system and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process while locking in a friendly tax code for the super-rich for the next decade,” AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Ed Wytkind said in a statement.
“We reject this misguided approach,” Wytkind continued. “While funding levels for specific programs were not released today, we know the plan targets transportation investments for cuts at a time when our economy is in desperate need of job-creating proposals and our transportation system suffers from chronic neglect, record congestion and failing infrastructure.”