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Surface Transportation Savings Act

On July 21st, the House passed the Surface Transportation Savings Act (H.R. 5604) to rescind $107 million in unspent contract authority made available to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that the agencies cannot use in FY 2010. Eliminating excess funding that agencies cannot use is a common sense and practical step toward improving the nation's fiscal foundation.

Specifically, the bill rescinds unspent contract authority from NHTSA's safety belt performance grants, administrative expenses, National Driver Register, and research and development programs, and FTA's formula and bus grant programs. None of this contract authority can be used in FY 2010. This bill will lead to real savings. It reduces the contract authority for these highway safety and transit programs by $107 million. While this may not, in and of itself, directly reduce outlays in FY 2010, it takes this $107 million off the table so that it cannot be used to increase spending in the future.

There are two ways this $107 million could be used to increase spending in the future if it is not rescinded now. First, a future appropriations act could increase the obligation limitations that control spending for these highway safety and transit programs, thereby allowing this $107 million to be spent. Second, a future appropriations act could rescind this $107 million and use that rescission to offset increased spending on other programs.

It is imperative that the Congress take every step it can to efficiently and effectively manage taxpayer dollars and this bill is such a step. Enactment of this bill will be another step of the 111th Congress in restoring fiscal responsibility. Other steps on restoring fiscal responsibility have included:

            • The Congress has enacted statutory PAYGO (PL 111-139), which President George W. Bush and a GOP-led Congress had let expire in 2002.
            • The Congress has enacted provisions going after waste, fraud and abuse - such as cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.
            • The House has passed a FY 2011 budget which sets a limit on discretionary spending that is $7 billion below the President's budget and $3 billion below the Senate resolution.
            • The Congress has enacted the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act to go after improper federal payments that cost taxpayers an estimated $98 billion in FY 2009. (The President will sign this bill into law later this week.)
            • The House has passed the IMPROVE Acquisition Act, saving taxpayers an estimated $27 billion a year by cleaning up defense acquisition spending.
            • The House has also passed the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act that will cut government waste by shining light on ineffective programs.