Monday, February 2, 2009

Dazed and confused about the stimulus?

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are tossing around some staggering numbers these days. It’s no wonder that people are feeling frustrated or confused about the sheer size and intent behind the proposed economic stimulus package.

“Is this a bailout?” “Who gets the money?” and “Where’s mine?” are among the many questions received by OOIDA, Land Line Magazine and Land Line Now and we appreciate them.

While there is no direct money set aside for trucking, a stimulus package aimed at boosting construction, infrastructure, science and health care will lead to trucking loads that pay.

Some are wondering why the $819 billion stimulus bill contains “only $30 billion” for transportation infrastructure projects. These people are right in saying that is not nearly enough to address the problems at hand such as crumbling interstates and deficient bridges.

The short explanation is that the stimulus is not designed to fix the nation’s transportation infrastructure problems. That fix has to come in the form of a completely separate act of Congress.

By definition, the stimulus bill is a short-term proposal aimed at creating jobs and increasing the flow of money through the economy.

Anything longer-term, such as expanding lane capacity, rebuilding interstates and replacing deficient bridges falls under the definition of transportation funding reauthorization.

Congress is working on the reauthorization simultaneously with the stimulus talk, so it can get a bit confusing.

Just keep in mind that all large-scale funding issues for transportation are being tackled separately from the so-called stimulus.

A typical long-term reauthorization provides for approximately five years of transportation policy and funding.

The current reauthorization known as SAFETEA-LU became law in 2005 after a couple of years’ worth of debate, and it is set to expire Sept. 30.

Because the next reauthorization is likely to be massive and contain record amounts for highways and bridges, it could take time to hammer out.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has challenged his colleagues to hit the deadline, but time will tell.

If the reauthorization does not pass by the deadline, we would continue functioning under the provisions of SAFETEA-LU.

Stimulating, isn’t it?