Washington Report: Coalition to ensure no trust fund diversion

 - May 21, 2008, 11:02 AM

Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several aviation associations have joined with other transportation and manufacturing groups in Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) to ensure that money collected for transportation projects is not siphoned by Congress for other uses, as has been done in the past.

Thomas Donohue, chamber president and CEO, said that ATM will provide “support, encouragement and political muscle” to ensure that money collected for intermodal transportation, such as the aviation trust fund, is spent for that which it is earmarked. He said the coalition and its organizations are “going to make sure that the money we paid in is going to be paid out.”

The coalition includes leading transportation associations, users, builders and state and local chambers, and Donohue said it will fight to boost investment in transportation infrastructure and to streamline the approval process that currently delays and even prevents safety improvements and congestion relief.

Speaking at what was billed as ATM’s “Policies Insiders Luncheon,” featuring Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Donohue pointed out that only 19 new runways were added at major airports over the past 25 years, despite an expected threefold increase in passengers and cargo by 2015.

Young revealed that there already had been attempts to “disappropriate” $176 million of the money that was to be budgeted in the Aviation and Investment Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) and its highway counterpart, TEA-21, and he predicted these legislators “will try to take the money away from us again.” He said an additional, unexpected $4.8 billion was collected in transportation taxes, and congressional appropriators “see this pile of money and salivate over it like a dog over a large bone.”