News Releases

Senator Murray Opens First Hearing on the Transportation Budget for Fiscal Year 2003

Feb 07 2002

Focuses on Security, Investing in Infrastructure and Helping Economy

(Washington, D.C) -- As Chair of the Senate's Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) today held the first hearing on the transportation budget for Fiscal Year 2003. Murray focused on improving security and efficiency in all modes of transportation.

Her opening remarks follow:

This will be the first of several subcommittee hearings on the Transportation Budget for Fiscal Year 2003.

As I review this budget, it's clear to me that our Subcommittee will face extraordinary challenges this coming year-challenges that may make the Mexican truck issue seem easy by comparison.

In his State of the Union message, President Bush said that his economic security plan can be summed up in one word-"jobs."

But his Transportation Budget proposes to cut billions of dollars in infrastructure spending. This is the single largest proposed cut across the entire government. It threatens to eliminate over 350,000 jobs across the country.

During a hearing with OMB Director Mitch Daniels held two days ago, I questioned the wisdom of this proposal.

Director Daniels was quick to point out that, in making this request, the Administration was only following the requirements of the TEA-21 law.

What Mr. Daniels failed to say is that -- throughout his budget proposal -- there are hundreds of examples where the Administration is asking us to ignore existing law or to change the law.

Just within the Transportation Budget, we are asked to ignore current law and to adopt measures to throw several communities out of the Essential Air Service program.

We are asked to ignore the TEA-21 law and divert transit formula funds to the President's "New Freedom Initiative."

We are asked to ignore current law and impose new user fees on railroads, shipping companies, and transporters of hazardous materials.

So I expect that one of the issues we will pursue this morning is - why the Administration supports current law when it requires billion-dollar cuts in infrastructure investment, but ignores current law in so many other places.

The proposed slashing of highway spending is just one challenge we will face.

The DOT is currently establishing a brand new agency - the Transportation Security Administration - known as TSA.

It's clear from September 11th, that we need to improve security in all of our transportation modes. I support the new undersecretary and his major task of securing our various modes of transportation against threats of attack

To date, the TSA has been funded largely through user fees. But for Fiscal Year 2003, the Administration is requesting that direct appropriations for this agency grow from less than $95 million to $2.2 billion.

Dramatic increases are also requested for the Coast Guard's efforts in the area of homeland defense.

And as I said earlier, the President's budget also recommends several controversial transportation user fees to partially offset the cost of a portion of these increases.

Finally, the President's budget proposes to freeze subsidies for Amtrak.

At the same time, we are told that Amtrak's President will testify that, unless Amtrak gets a 130 percent increase in funding this year, the majority of states across the nation will lose passenger rail service.

So this will be a challenging year. I would just ask my colleagues to keep these challenges in mind as we work on developing a Budget for the coming year.

If this Subcommittee wants to fully-fund the requests for security while avoiding deep cuts in highway infrastructure, the elimination of passenger rail service, and the imposition of new user fees, then a budget that holds us to the President's requested level will not do the job.

In order to better acquaint us with the details of the President's proposal, we are joined this morning by Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson.

As many of you know, Secretary Mineta is recuperating from hip replacement surgery. I know I speak on behalf of the entire Subcommittee in wishing the Secretary a speedy recovery.

Given the central role of transportation security in this budget request, I have also invited the new Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, John Magaw, to appear with Mr. Jackson.

We will also hold a hearing on cargo security with the Administrators from the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Maritime Administration, and the Coast Guard.

This is the third hearing that Mr. Magaw will participate in just this week. Mr. Magaw - we appreciate your stamina.

I understand that almost all of the discussion during his two previous hearings focused on the huge challenges he faces in the area of aviation security.

In just 11 days, the TSA is expected to take over the entire screening function at our nation's airports. And in just 10 months, the TSA is expected to implement a system to screen all checked baggage for explosives. I don't underestimate those critical challenges one bit.

But I represent a State with one of the largest seaports in the U.S., where every day tons of cargo that travels by rail or by truck.

So I want to remind my colleagues that the new Transportation Security Administration is responsible for security in all the transportation modes. And I think it is not too soon to ask what progress is being made in these areas.

I appreciate that the TSA must focus on its near term deadlines in aviation. But if that new agency is not yet focusing on port, rail, and highway security, then we must ask: what IS being done in the other parts of DOT?

To date, we have received no details on the TSA's budget request for $4.8 billion for next year. Instead, we have received only a 7-page narrative with no funding figures for any individual security activity.

As such, I think we will need to spend some time this morning pursuing precisely what Mr. Magaw believes he can and can't achieve at that funding level.

So while we've got many challenges ahead of us, this is important work. Transportation is a key part of our economy. Our transportation infrastructure affects our productivity and our quality of life. And when we make investments in our critical infrastructure, we're laying the foundation for our future economic growth.

So I welcome the challenges we face and I look forward to working with my colleagues to meet those challenges for the benefit of the American people.