NEW: GOP's Mica says Obama proposal would "emphasize more deficit spending"
Transportation secretary: "It's part of (Obama's) blueprint for an America built to last"
The spending will "generate hundreds of thousands of jobs," the administration says
Saving money on the Iran and Afghanistan wars will free up money, it says
President Barack Obama wants to raise the Department of Transportation budget by 2% next year.
The plan is part of a $3.8 trillion government-wide budget proposal released Monday by the White House.
It provides $74 billion in proposed transportation spending for the fiscal year starting in October. That is $1.4 billion above the amount authorized in 2012.
“It’s part of (Obama’s) blueprint for an America built to last,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a conference call with reporters. “We like what the president put forth. It is very balanced.”
The budget calls for spending $476 billion on surface transportation over the next six years and an additional $50 billion in the current fiscal year, which the administration says will “generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in the first few years.”
The administration says it plans to use money saved from ramping down military expenses from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for the spending transportation increases.
The proposal also calls for consolidating 55 highway programs into five; increasing funding for air traffic control modernization; laying out $30 billion over the next six years for highway safety programs, including $330 million for the ongoing campaign against distracted driving; and spending $47 billion over the same time period for passenger rail service, including high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail corridors.
Obama’s budget proposals highlight his priorities, but they are just requests. The House and the Senate are each considering their own transportation bills.
LaHood criticized the Republican-led House version, saying, “It’s a lousy bill. … It doesn’t reflect the transportation values of this administration or the country.”
Republican members of Congress have criticized Obama’s budget proposal for not doing enough to manage budget deficits, suggesting it could be dead on arrival.
“Rather than emphasize more deficit spending, from whatever source, the president’s focus should change to making transportation programs and projects more efficient and cutting the red tape” said Rep. John Mica of Florida, the Republican chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. “
The federal government’s next budget year starts October 1.