Opening remarks, as prepared, of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) from today's hearing entitled, "Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act":
Thank you, Chair DeFazio, for calling this important hearing, and thank you, Secretary Buttigieg, for being here today. Since you last testified before the Committee, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, and although many Members on our side of the aisle voted against the infrastructure bill -- partly because it had no Republican member input and ultimately no House input -- I recognize and respect that it's now the law of the land.
My focus now is on oversight of the law and ensuring that it is implemented efficiently, effectively, and adheres to the letter of the law. Why is that so important?
Because our Nation is dealing with crisis after crisis -- from a federal spending crisis, to an energy crisis, to a supply chain crisis, to a workforce shortage crisis. And all of these crises are feeding into an historic inflation crisis. It is astounding that inflation has increased 550% since the beginning of this Administration.
Americans know that they can no longer buy the same amount of food, clothing, gasoline, and other necessities with their hard-earned dollars as they could just a year and a half ago. Not by a long shot.
The same holds true for our infrastructure dollars.
Committee Republicans heard some pretty grim warnings last week at our roundtable on inflation. Companies working in the transportation space are struggling with exploding costs across the board. Some of these companies cannot shoulder the risk of inflation, which means some businesses -- especially the smaller ones -- are unable to even bid on jobs.
At the same time, states are running over their transportation budgets, as they have the impossible task of estimating project costs, which continue to increase exponentially. My home state of Missouri has estimated they are $140 million over budget for their current year's transportation plan.
States also are receiving fewer and fewer bids on their projects; and with all the regulatory red tape, they aren't even able to get through the process in time for a company's proposals to stay true to their original estimated costs.
That's why it is incumbent upon the Department and Congress to make sure every single dollar from this law counts and is directed toward projects that safely and efficiently move people, move goods, and clear bottlenecks that are adding to our supply chain issues.
However, many stakeholders have already expressed concerns about this Administration's implementation of the infrastructure law, and I share those concerns. I'll highlight just few of these issues.
One ongoing concern for me and many others is the December 16, 2021, Federal Highways Administration guidance memo. Mr. Secretary, I know that you've spoken about some of the concerns raised since this guidance was issued, but I hope you recognize the fact that it remains a serious source of concern and confusion because it pushes the Administration's own priorities -- including a bias against adding new highway capacity -- over what's written in the law itself.
Another related concern I have is the number of the Department's competitive grant notices that also include language doubling down on the Federal Highways guidance. The notices for grant programs like INFRA, RAISE, MEGA, Rural, and Reconnecting Communities all clearly show that this Administration isn't as laser-focused as it needs to be on fundamental transportation policy and projects that actually improve mobility.
And one additional concern I want to highlight is in regard to the One Federal Decision (OFD) provisions included in the law that are critical to cutting red tape for projects. Instead of simply implementing the OFD provisions, the Administration released an "Action Plan on Project Permitting" on May 11, 2022 -- but it doesn't even mention OFD. So again, here is another example of the law laying out an explicit policy, which the Administration appears to be ignoring in favor of accelerating projects that fit its own agenda.
The result of the Administration putting its agenda ahead of the law of the land, and even acting in contradiction of that law in some cases, is that infrastructure funding -- already dramatically devalued by crippling inflation -- is being diluted even further.
This is not shaping up to be the infrastructure bill Americans were promised. Now more than ever, this Administration needs to focus on real infrastructure, and on policies that can help get us out of these crises.
With that, I want to thank both the Chair and the Secretary again, and I look forward to this hearing.