July 23, 1998
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views
on S. 2307, the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY 1999, as reported by the Senate Appropriations
Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be
The Administration appreciates the Committee's effort to include in its bill many of the priorities recently agreed to by the President and Congress in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). However, the allocation is simply insufficient to make the necessary investments in programs funded by this bill. As a result, a variety of critical programs are under-funded. The only way to achieve the appropriate investment level is to offset discretionary spending by using savings in other areas. The President's FY 1999 Budget proposes levels of discretionary spending for FY 1999 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings in mandatory and other programs available to help finance this spending. In the Transportation Equity Act, Congress -- on a broad, bipartisan basis -- took similar action in approving funding for surface transportation programs together with mandatory offsets. The Administration urges the Congress to consider such mandatory proposals for other priority discretionary programs.
The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill could seriously disrupt air transportation safety and vital Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Coast Guard modernization programs, and delay Amtrak's progress towards operating self-sufficiency. The Senate could partially accommodate the funding increases recommended below by adhering more closely to the President's request for the Airport Grants program, High Speed Rail, Coast Guard Alteration of Bridges, and other programs.
The bill also includes a number of objectionable language provisions. In particular, the Secretary of Transportation has indicated that he would recommend that the President veto the bill if it includes section 322, which could severely limit the use of project labor agreements. The Administration's concerns with the Committee bill are discussed below.
Air Transportation and Highway Safety
The Administration strongly urges the Senate to restore the $50 million reduction to FAA Operations and eliminate the earmarks for low-priority programs, such as subsidies for non-cost beneficial contract towers. These funds are necessary to ensure that the FAA can hire the security personnel and safety inspectors needed to meet the demands from increased air travel. To protect the safety of automobile travelers adequately, we ask that the Senate provide an additional $12 million for high priority National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) programs. In addition, the Administration urges the Senate to provide funding requested by the President to add a second civil signal to the Global Positioning System.
FAA and Coast Guard Modernization
The Administration is concerned about language that is intended to constrain outlays for FAA Facilities and Equipment in FY 1999. We question whether this provision can be implemented and, if so, whether it would lead to unintended and unfavorable programmatic effects. We look forward to working with the Senate to address our concerns. In addition, we urge the Senate to fund fully the President's request for the Facilities and Equipment account. Funding at any lower level could delay National Airspace System modernization.
The Administration objects to the virtual elimination of funding for the Flight 2000 program. This program is a key element of the FAA's plans to make a transition to a more efficient, user involved, satellite-based air traffic control system to meet the air traffic needs of the next century. The Senate is requested to provide the $100 million in the FAA Facilities and Equipment account to deploy explosive detection systems. The Committee's decision to provide up to $100 million for this purpose in the Airport Grants account would preclude the FAA from deploying these systems based on security requirements and may result in fewer systems being deployed.
The Administration opposes the Committee's reduction of $57 million to the President's request of $443 million for Coast Guard capital investments. These capital projects provide long-term operating savings and are necessary to ensure that the Coast Guard has the necessary infrastructure to fulfill its maritime safety, drug interdiction, environmental protection, and national security goals. In addition, the Administration urges the Senate to fund fully the President's request for $8.5 million for the Nationwide Differential Global Positioning System.
As this bill moves forward, we urge Congress to fund fully the President's request for Amtrak so that it can carry through on the bipartisan, five-year reform plan envisioned by the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997. Amtrak is an essential component of the nation's inter-city transportation system.
The Administration requests that the Senate provide an additional $50 million to fully fund the President's request of $100 million for the Access-to-Jobs program. This program is a critical component of the Administration's welfare reform effort. The additional resources are essential to helping more individuals in communities around the country make a successful transition from welfare to work.
Civil Rights and Office of the Secretary
The Administration strongly urges the Senate to restore the 20-percent reduction made by the Committee to the funding request for the Office of Civil Rights. This reduction would significantly hamper the Department's ability to enforce laws that prohibit discrimination in Federally operated or assisted transportation programs. We also urge the Senate to provide the President's requested $62 million for the Office of the Secretary and to delete the Committee's recommended new account structure and limitation on political appointees. These changes are necessary to avoid a reduction-in-force and to allow the Secretary to manage the department effectively.
The Committee has earmarked almost 400 transit projects, as well as many airport, Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and rail, and infrastructure credit projects. Consistent with our objections to TEA-21, the Administration believes that projects should be funded based upon their merit and that funds should not be directed to low-priority projects that cannot meet established selection criteria.
Section 322 would preclude the Department of Transportation from using project labor agreements (PLAs), which are a contract mechanism to achieve efficiencies in construction projects. Furthermore, the provision is ambiguous, making its full impact difficult to assess and raising questions as to its applicability to a host of laws and regulations affecting workers. As noted above, the Secretary of Transportation would recommend that the President veto this bill if it includes section 322.
The Administration strongly opposes section 342 of the bill, which would allow helicopters to operate and land on Federally-owned lands in Alaska, including wilderness areas. This would be harmful to species and habitat and disrupt Congress' carefully crafted balance on this issue in the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA). Under ANILCA, helicopter landings are permitted for emergency reasons and, on a case-by-case basis, for non-emergency use in non-wilderness areas. The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture have previously recommended that bills containing similar provisions be vetoed.
The Administration requests that the Senate delete the provisions in both the Coast Guard and FAA operating expenses appropriations language that would prohibit the Coast Guard and the FAA from evaluating options for collecting fees for their services. User fees may be a critical means in the future for ensuring that the Coast Guard and the FAA have adequate resources to meet their operating and capital needs without significantly reducing other vital transportation programs.
The Administration requests that the Senate delete the provision allowing states to establish separate standards for licensing drivers on commercial vehicles that do not cross state boundaries. This would seriously undermine the single-license concept of the national commercial driver's license which prevents drivers from spreading violations across multiple licenses held in several States.
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