Sen. Brown Opening Statement at Banking Committee’s Hearing on Surface Transportation Reauthorization
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing entitled “Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Building on the Successes of MAP-21 to Deliver Safe, Efficient, and Effective Public Transportation Services and Projects.”
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.
Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement:
“Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Building on the Successes of MAP-21 to Deliver Safe, Efficient, and Effective Public Transportation Services and Projects.”
April 21, 2015
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I’m committed to passing a long-term reauthorization that grows the overall transportation program—it’s good for the economy, it’s good for workers, and it’s good for our nation’s economic competitiveness.
Previous generations of Americans built the best infrastructure in the world, but we have watched it crumble for decades.
New investment in infrastructure will put Americans back to work fixing railways and roadways, and our work in the Banking Committee to rebuild and expand public transportation will lead to new economic opportunities.
More Americans used buses, trains and subways last year than in any year since 1956, and 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are to and from work. Transit provides crucial access to jobs, particularly for low-income workers.
In Ohio’s largest cities -- Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus -- our transit agencies carry more than 250,000 passengers every day. Those trips don’t just benefit the riders. Every transit trip takes cars off roads, which reduces highway congestion.
Federal transportation investment has been flat since 2009, but the level of backlogged maintenance and repair grows each year. Cleveland RTA’s fleet of 108 rail cars, for example, has an average age of more than 30 years and will need to be replaced soon. Its tunnels and stations also need major repairs.
I’ve worked with the Cleveland RTA’s General Manager Joe Calabrese for a long time. Most people carry pictures of their grandchildren in their wallet, but I think Joe carries pictures of crumbling concrete in his stations. That’s all he wants to show me.
In the Banking Committee, there is a strong history of bipartisanship when it comes to drafting the transit title. I am looking forward to working with the Chairman to reach a bipartisan agreement in the weeks and months ahead.
Today, we have the chance to talk about the President’s vision for our surface transportation system as we begin work on a bill. He has proposed a 6-year, $478 billion transportation package that significantly expands investment in public transportation.
The President has also proposed a new international corporate tax system that would shut down tax havens and increase domestic investment.
This system includes a one-time transition tax on the roughly $2 trillion in offshore profits, which could make up the shortfall we need for a 6-year bill at the Administration’s levels.
I think we could look at a range of options, including the current user fee, but no matter what mechanism we pursue, we need to avoid an endless cycle of extensions, and we need to do much, much better than flat investment levels.
I would argue that stand-alone international tax reform - which I am working on with Senators Schumer, Portman, Warner, and others – affords us the best opportunity we have had in years to escape the cycle of short-term flat funding.
As the Finance Committee works on revenue for the bill, here at Banking we will be working on our part of the bill.
One area I think we should look at is the opportunity to increase jobs in the transit manufacturing sector in this bill through Buy America provisions.
I’ve been a long-time supporter of Buy America and have introduced the Invest in American Jobs Act in previous Congresses.
Taxpayer dollars should be spent supporting American workers and American businesses. I understand there are some concerns, but I don’t accept arguments that nothing can be done. We need to encourage the use of American suppliers, close loopholes, and use more American-made products such as steel.
Our Committee also needs to look at how we can build on many of successful policy changes in MAP-21. MAP-21 helped speed transit construction under New Starts and Small Starts, and MAP-21 provided long-needed authority to FTA to oversee transit safety.
I want to welcome Acting Administrator McMillan. She has been overseeing FTA’s efforts to implement MAP-21, and she can offer valuable guidance to our Committee as we move forward.
I also hope that our Committee can consider Ms. McMillan’s nomination quickly. The President nominated her last July, we reported her nomination unanimously last November, but the full Senate could not act on her nomination at the end of the year. The President re-nominated her in January, and I hope she does not have to wait much longer to be confirmed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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