Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is challenging the feasibility Rep. John Mica's long-term transportation spending plan, signaling a looming battle with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman over transportation funding.
In an Oct. 26 letter to Mica, Boxer questioned the Florida Republican's claim to be able to maintain current levels of transportation spending for the next six years through a $286 billion plan. Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., are proposing a $109 billion, two-year transportation plan to serve as a stopgap until Congress agrees on a long-term spending strategy.
A six-year $286 billion surface transportation bill would represent a 16 percent cut compared to the current $339 billion annual spending level, Boxer said in her letter. That would put hundreds of jobs at risk immediately, she said.
Boxer said she is willing to consider a six-year reauthorization at current funding levels plus inflation as long as the plan "does not cut jobs elsewhere in the economy."
Under the proposal from Boxer and Inhofe, $12 billion more would be spent over two years than the Highway Trust Fund could provide, and that gap would increase to about $75 billion if her plan was extended by four years. Boxer said she is still looking for ways to plug the shortfall.
She sent her letter after Mica said he wants to push the long-delayed surface transportation reauthorization measure rather than focus on a separate, broader White House jobs bill that may come with highway spending attached. Mica and other House Republicans are still trying to find the more than $55 billion needed to augment the Highway Trust Fund and bring funding under their bill up to $286 billion.