House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., released his FY 2015 budget today. In just three pages, he calls for surprisingly sensible reforms to federal transportation programs. Unlike the Obama and Camp budgets — which I earlier criticized for continuing trust fund bailouts and merely kicking the can down the road — Ryan makes an attempt to fix the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue/outlay imbalance by refocusing transportation funding on core programs, while allowing states more flexibility to experiment with self-funding and -financing mechanisms.
As Ryan notes:
The budget recommends sensible reforms to avert the bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund by aligning spending from the Trust Fund with incoming revenues collected. The budget also includes a provision to ensure any future general-fund transfers will be fully offset, while at the same time providing flexibility for a surface-transportation reauthorization that does not increase the deficit. The budget includes a reserve fund to provide for the adjustment of budget levels for consideration of surface-transportation legislation, as long as that legislation is deficit neutral.
In addition, Ryan recommends the following positive transportation policy changes:
- Eliminate Amtrak’s billion-dollar-plus annual subsidy;
- Reduce the Transportation Security Administration’s outlays; and
- Eliminate the Essential Air Service.
With highway bill reauthorization around the corner, it is great to see some real positive reforms being put on the table. Many free market transportation advocates would certainly like to see more, but we need to start somewhere, and Ryan’s budget appears to be that starting point.