A few weeks ago, President Obama delivered a powerful message in his State of the Union Address. He said that for America to win the future, our citizens and companies need the safest, fastest, most reliable ways to move goods and information.
He called on the nation to repair our existing roads, bridges, and transit systems and to build new projects of national significance.
The President’s 2012 budget--and his six-year plan for the future of American transportation--will accomplish precisely this.
President Obama's proposal includes a $50 billion “up front boost” that will jump-start job creation while laying the foundation for future competitiveness and prosperity. It also includes a $30 billion national infrastructure bank that will finance major projects of national or regional significance over the long run. And, where it doesn’t compromise safety or jobs, the proposal recommends tightening our fiscal belt.
There’s no question that America’s transportation system is at a crossroads. Our choice isn’t between policies on the left and policies on the right. Our choice is whether we keep our economic recovery rolling forward or whether we allow it to fall backward.
It’s up to us whether we lay a new foundation for economic growth, competitiveness, and opportunity, or whether we shortchange the future, settling for a status quo stifled by outdated and overburdened infrastructure.
If we want businesses to open shop and hire our families, friends, and neighbors, we have to invest in our roadways, railways, and runways. We have to invest in 21st century buses, streetcars, and transit systems. We have to invest in NextGen for our skies – and in sidewalks and bike paths that make our streets safer for everyone who uses them.
And all of this is included in the President’s $129 billion 2012 budget for the U.S. DOT, designed as the first installment of a bold six-year, $556 billion, reauthorization proposal.
Now, to make room for these investments, we also have to tighten our belts.
We have to cut and consolidate things that aren’t growing the economy or making it easier to do business. That’s why President Obama’s budget freezes domestic spending for five years, a decision that will reduce the deficit by $400 billion during the next decade and bring annual domestic spending to the lowest level since President Eisenhower was in office. If you’re counting, that was ten administrations ago.
That’s why the President’s budget cuts red tape throughout the Department of Transportation; consolidates more than 50 different DOT programs; and includes a number of actions that will accelerate project delivery and help local communities access the resources they need.
And that’s why it includes a new $32 billion competitive grant program, the Transportation Leadership Awards, that directs money to projects based on merit not on politics.
Finally, let me remind you that we’re dedicated to doing all of this without passing on another dime of debt to our children and grandchildren. That's right--for the first time, transportation spending will be subject to “pay-as-you-go” provisions that ensure the dollars we award do not exceed the dollars coming in.
Let's be clear: today is only the starting-line, not the finish-line. The race ahead will be long and it will be challenging. But I believe that, with all stakeholders participating in a good-faith effort, we can get this 2012 budget passed. And I believe we can get a good transportation bill through Congress and to the President’s desk by the August recess.
The American economy can't afford to wait. The American people can't afford to wait. Let's get busy.