Hold for Release until 9:00 AM, June 9, 2009 Contact: Priscilla Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)
National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission Congratulates the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project on Issuance of its Final Report
The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission released the following statement in response to the report released today by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project entitled “Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy.”
The final report of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) makes a very significant contribution to the debate about how to improve the performance of our national surface transportation system, expand the funding available to meet critical transportation investment needs, and increase the effectiveness of how we as a nation spend transportation funding. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (Financing Commission) congratulates the NTPP for its important efforts and takes this opportunity to highlight several places where its report reinforces or complements our own findings and recommendations, as articulated in the Financing Commission’s final report entitled Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance, released February 26, 2009. In making these comments, the Financing Commission emphasizes that Congress and the Administration, along with state and local policy makers, must begin to address these issues immediately. The work of the NTPP highlights the need for bold leadership to reform and redouble our nation’s lagging efforts to support critical infrastructure investment.
- The NTPP’s research and analysis produce the latest confirmation of a key finding documented in the Financing Commission’s recent report – that the current surface transportation funding approach, with its heavy reliance on motor fuel taxes, raises insufficient revenue, is unsustainable at current rates in the long run, and is inconsistent with important national policy goals. The NTPP echoes the Financing Commission’s call for Congress to begin taking immediate steps to develop a more sustainable national revenue mechanism based on the user-pay principle.
- The Financing Commission endorses the principles and recommendations articulated by the NTTP concerning the close relationship between funding approaches and program reforms. As we have observed, how much revenue is needed and how the revenue is raised cannot be separated from how the revenue is spent. While the Financing Commission’s mandate was to focus on the first two and we did not recommend a specific federal role in surface transportation, we noted that the effectiveness of any funding solution will require that spending programs be better focused on improving performance of the national network and on achieving broad national policy goals. The NTPP likewise stresses that reform must accompany revenue – that while we need to invest more, we also need to invest more wisely. Consistent with the Financing Commission’s findings, the NTTP also notes that public revenue collection can enhance the performance of the system when users more directly understand and bear the full costs of the infrastructure they use.
- The Financing Commission continues to urge that we develop a national funding approach that relies on more direct user charges and that utilizes performance-based programs to increase the willingness of users and other beneficiaries to pay the tolls and taxes necessary to cover the full costs of the transportation system we all want and need. The NTPP’s recommendation that the nation move to a vehicle-based revenue system with the user-pay principle at its core is fully in line with our recommendation. In conjunction with this recommendation, the NTPP acknowledges (as did we) that “policy makers should address the research, standard setting, technology, privacy protection, equity and administration issues for an improved national user-pay funding mechanism, including requiring development of a time-phased implementation plan.”
- The NTPP report concurs with the Financing Commission’s view that financing techniques, while helpful, cannot serve as a substitute for revenue mechanisms. Our nation’s fundamental underinvestment problem must be addressed by implementing spending reforms in conjunction with difficult choices about funding options. The NTPP report also points out that a special-purpose financing entity (like a National Infrastructure Bank), while potentially a way to improve how the federal government allocates scarce resources for certain projects if it applies rigorous quantitative performance metrics, should not be seen as a convenient panacea to the nation’s surface transportation funding problem.
- The NTPP report makes several recommendations with regard to both short and long term funding of our nation’s surface transportation system that the Financing Commission believes are compelling and deserve serious consideration by policy makers. In particular, we strongly agree with the NTPP’s assertions that short term efforts to address the federal highway and transit funding crisis should minimize departure from user-based funding concepts, and that federal policies and funding should assist states and local governments in developing sustainable funding sources – including eliminating federal restrictions on road pricing (with appropriate protections of the public interest), supporting efforts by states to implement direct user charges, and expanding federal credit assistance provided by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
- Finally, the Financing Commission agrees with the NTPP’s view that new climate policies and transportation legislation need to ensure that transportation users cover the full costs of their carbon emissions – and that an appropriate portion of carbon pricing revenue be applied to support investments that significantly reduce carbon emissions.