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ATA, Diesel Forum Slam Obama Budget Proposal

April 10, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 drew harsh criticism from the American Trucking Associations and the Diesel Technology Forum. ATA took issue with the budget's infrastructure funding, while the Forum took aim at a cut in funding for emissions-reduction programs.

The American Trucking Associations says the more than $3.8 trillion package “fails to provide adequate detail and direction for how the country should pay for its infrastructure needs.”

It requests $77 billion for the U.S. Transportation Department, 6% higher than 2012’s enacted level plus an additional $50 billion to pay for improving the nation’s roads, bridges, transit systems, border crossings, railways and runways, similar to what the president has called for in the past.

“For five years, we’ve waited for President Obama to clearly state how we should pay for these critical needs and, I’m sad to say, we continue to get lip service about the importance of roads and bridges with no real roadmap to real funding solutions,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

The department says the package “fully supports the program structure and performance based investment approach outlined in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, known as MAP-21 for short, or commonly referred to as the Highway Bill.

Deputy Secretary John Porcari said at a briefing that the $50 billion program would be paid for with savings offsets elsewhere but did not elaborate.

“Accounting gimmicks and budget tricks only get you so far,” Graves said, “Sooner or later you need to take a hard look at the situation and decide that we’re either going to invest in these things or we’re not and if we are, that we need to generate more revenue than we do now.”

ATA Chairman Mike Card, president of Combined Transport, Central Point, Ore., also responded negatively to the proposal, saying a network of efficient highways is beneficial not just for trucking but for the entire economy.

 “Trucking is willing to step up and pay more to ensure this country has the world-class highways it deserves, but until the President and congressional leaders advance a plan with real funding solutions, I worry about the continued deterioration of one of our nation’s most critical competitive advantages,” he said.

DERA program in jeopardy

The Diesel Technology Forum issued a statement late Wednesday saying the budget's proposed 70% reduction in funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) “will nearly decimate one of the nation’s most successful clean air programs," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director.

The 2014 budget proposal would reduce DERA funding from $20 million in FY 2013 to $6 million in 2014. The DERA grant program was originally authorized as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to fund upgrades and modernize the oldest, higher-emitting diesel engines, complementing the stringent emissions standards EPA set for new diesel engines beginning in 2007. The program has evolved to also include deployment of many fuel-saving technologies.  

“The DERA program has a consistent record of delivering very high environmental, fuel-saving and clean air value to large, small and disadvantaged communities throughout the nation for relatively small investments,” Schaeffer said, nothing that EPA has estimated DERA has provided $13 in benefits for every $1 dollar invested.

“At the same time proven clean air programs here in the U.S. are being slashed by 70%," he said, "the President is increasing direct funding to other countries for climate and clean energy programs by over 30%."

Other budget provisions

Outside of transportation, the president proposed $282 million to develop new bifuels and repealing $4 billion dollars worth of tax subsides to oil and gas producers as part of the Department of Energy budget. And while it calls for less money to go to the Department of Labor, due to a drop in unemployment claims, it calls for more funding for the department when it comes to investigating whistleblower allegations.

The White House plan follows Congressional Democrats and Republicans putting together their own separate plans, which are far apart, while the president plan seeks to strike a balance between the two, say some inside the Beltway.

The Obama budget also proposes a minimum tax rate of 30% for households earning more than a million dollars annually as well as closing some loopholes and reaffirms an earlier calls to push the minimum wage to $9 per hour.

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