December 05, 2007

REMARKS OF SENATOR BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (D-MD)BWI BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP BREAKFAST: BRAC, PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES

Good morning.   It's a pleasure to be with you.   I would like to thank Lou Zagarino for his kind introduction and acknowledge Colonel Kenneth McCreedy, Fort Meade Installation Commander; John Porcari, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation; State Senator James "Ed" DeGrange; Delegate Pam Beidle; Delegate Mary Ann Love; Tim Campbell, Executive Director of the Maryland Aviation Administration; Linda Greene, Executive Director of the BWI Business Partnership; and, of course, my senior colleague, Senator Mikulski.

The American humorist Irwin S. Cobb correctly observed that no speech can be entirely bad if it is short enough.   So in conclusion. . .

 

BRAC/Flow of Funds

Last month, the Baltimore Sun had an article aptly entitled, "BRAC 'gold rush' sets in."   The BRAC process brings dread to many communities across America, but not to Maryland.   Here, it's a boon.   Because of BRAC, there will be up to 60,000 new, high-paying jobs coming to Maryland over the next few years all across the State - at Aberdeen, at Fort Meade, at Bethesda Naval, at Fort Detrick.   It's not just BRAC, though, that's fueling the State's strong economic growth.

Because of our proximity to Washington, because of our bases, federal agencies, labs, contractors, and subcontractors, Maryland enjoys a very lucrative fiscal relationship with the Federal Government.   In Fiscal Year 2005, for instance, the State received one dollar and thirty cents in federal spending for every dollar paid in federal taxes.   That's a pretty powerful economic stimulus, and it's likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

In a post-9/11 world, the State is well-positioned to remain on the receiving end of increased federal spending on national defense, homeland security, counter-terrorism, space research, and information technology.

Not only is the pie growing; some of the pieces - the pieces that matter to Maryland - are getting bigger relative to the others.   On a per capita basis, federal spending on procurement in Maryland was over 300 percent of the U.S. average in 2005.   For salaries and wages, it was over 270 percent of the U.S. per capita average.

 

The world is becoming more and more dangerous.   What that means, parochially speaking, is that more and more federal spending is heading our way.   More spending, more jobs, more people.   But we could choke on that growth if we don't make the infrastructure improvements necessary to keep people, goods, and services moving freely.

We neglect infrastructure spending at our peril.   Just look at Minneapolis for an example of what can happen when we don't maintain our infrastructure.   An even grimmer example is New Orleans.   Those levees didn't have to fail.

 

Transportation Infrastructure

That's why one of my priorities, when I got elected to the Senate, was to get on the Environment & Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the highway bill and the Water Resources Development Act - we call it WRDA - which Congress passed over the President's veto just before Thanksgiving.

 

It'll be another couple of years before we reauthorize the highway bill again, so I'm focusing on mass transit right now.   Getting more people to use mass transit eases congestion on our roads and highways, it's good for the environment, and it bolsters our national security by reducing our dependence on imported oil.

 

The Committee is going to start marking up the Lieberman-Warner Climate Change bill tomorrow.   The bill will establish a so-called "cap-and-trade" system to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through a carbon dioxide allowance trading program.

 

I have an amendment already in the bill to dedicate some of the revenue the G-H-G trading program will produce to mass transit.   My amendment would add billions of dollars over the next 30 years to the Nation's transit budget.   I think that's a good investment.

 

I'm optimistic we can pass a bill I introduced, S. 1446, to reauthorize the Washington Metro before this session of Congress ends.   Metrorail is the second most heavily used rapid transit system in the nation.   Metrobus is the fifth most heavily used bus system in the nation. The 106-mile Metrorail system cost 10 billion dollars to build - approximately two-thirds of which was paid by the Federal Government.

The value of this asset represents 24 billion dollars in today's dollars.   Metro is a mature system now and it's beginning to show signs of age.   Sixty percent of the Metrorail system is more than 20 years old and the average bus facility is 60 years old.   We need to protect an asset designed to serve the federal workforce and the National Capital Region.   I think that's a good investment.

 

I'm working with M-DOT and M-T-A on the long-term MARC Growth and Investment Plan.  Among other provisions, the Draft Plan calls for:

 

adding a PM peak train on the Penn Line (which serves B-W-I);

adding a late evening train on the Penn Line ;

initiating weekend service on the Penn Line ; and

adding new cars to increase ridership, which eases congestion on the nearby roads and highways.

 

Potential longer-term investments would result in adding a fourth track at B-W-I station and reconstructing the station to provide better intermodal connections.   I think that's a good investment.

 

I mentioned WRDA a moment ago.   I'm glad the Congress voted to override the President's veto of that bill.   Along with B-W-I, the Port of Baltimore is the economic heart of Maryland.   WRDA contains two provisions vital to the Port's continued well-being.   The first provision extends the current authorization for dredging the channels to 50 feet for another five years, from 2009 to 2014.   The second provision authorizes expanding Poplar Island by 575 acres at an additional cost of 256 million dollars.   The estimated federal cost of the expansion is 195 million dollars.   This gives the Port a predictable disposal site for dredging materials out to 2022, about eight years beyond current capacity.   I think that's a good investment.

Senator Mikulski and I have worked very hard on getting BRAC-related earmarks into the Transportation Appropriations bill.   You have, undoubtedly, heard much about earmarks, most of it pejorative.   Earmarks get a bum rap.   Here's what Senator Mikulski and I have been working on, and you tell me whether this is "pork barrel" spending or prudent and necessary investment in our surface transportation infrastructure:

 

Here in Anne Arundel County, 500,000 dollars for transportation improvements near Fort Meade;

another 670,000 dollars for a bus facility to serve Howard and part of Anne Arundel counties;

i n Harford County, a little over 2 million dollars for improvements near the Aberdeen Proving Ground;

in Montgomery County, a little over 2 million dollars for MD-355 improvements between Woodmont Avenue and I-270, near the National Naval Medical Center/Bethesda;

in Frederick County, 250,000 dollars for safer and improved access to Ft. Detrick at US-15 and Monocacy Boulevard;

 statewide, 750,000 dollars for the Maryland Transit Administration and locally operated transit systems for bus and bus facility improvements;

statewide, 10 million dollars for MARC commuter rail improvements and additional rolling stock (i.e., new passenger cars); and

35 million dollars for the purchase of additional rail cars for the Washington Metro system.

 

I think all of that's a good investment.

 

Here's the rub: Congress is poised to pass this bill, but President Bush says he'll veto it.   I think that would be regrettable.   If you agree with me, I urge you to let the White House know about it.   The number for the switchboard there is 202/456-1414!  

 

We pass a bill, the president vetoes it, we try to override the veto - how prophetic L'Enfant was when he laid out Washington, D.C., as a city that goes around in circles!

 

All kidding aside, John F. Kennedy said, "To govern is to choose."   We could choose to make the necessary investment in our infrastructure, or we could choose not to.   The eight earmarks I just mentioned cost, in the aggregate, 51.2 million dollars.   We spend that much in less than four hours in Iraq.   I want the Iraqis to have good roads and ports and such.   But I want us to have them, too.

 

On the aviation front, it's unlikely that Congress will be able to pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill this year.   We need to pass this bill to provide a four-year "road map" for the F-A-A to begin modernizing air traffic control from a ground-based system to a satellite-based system.   If I can have a G-P-S device in my car guiding me on my way, shouldn't air traffic controllers benefit from the same technology?

 

A dispute between the Senate Commerce and Finance Committees over how much each aviation sector should contribute has stalled the bill, which the House passed earlier this year.

The Finance Committee approved a plan that continues the excise tax structure on aviation fuel, which the general aviation community support.   The national air carriers, not surprisingly, want general aviation to pay more.

 

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation, and Ranking Member Trent Lott (R-MS) - both of whom are also senior Finance Committee members - failed in their bid to eliminate a three dollar and ten-cent rural departure tax and raise jet fuel taxes for non-commercial flights by 16 cents per gallon above the level in the underlying bill.

 

Congress has extended the aviation taxes and programs twice since they expired on September 30th.   The current extension expires December 14th.   My hunch is that we'll pass an another extension good for three to six months and the Senate will take up the bill in earnest early next year - late January or early February.   It's difficult to predict what impact Senator Lott's decision to retire at the end of this year will have on the outcome.   Fortunately, despite our inability to pass the F-A-A reauthorization bill this year, funding for the modernization effort will be appropriated regardless.   F-A-A will probably get roughly the same amount this year - 2.5 billion dollars - that it received in Fiscal Year 2007 for facilities and equipment.

The House-passed F-A-A reauthorization bill authorizes 3.1 billion dollars for F-A-A facilities and equipment so there's plenty of incentive to get this bill done early next year.

 

Small Business Concerns

I would like to make one other point before I close.

 

Most of the private sector B-W-I Business Partnership members are large companies.   I want to see you succeed.   But I also want to see the State's small businesses succeed, too.   We all have an interest in fostering a climate in which small businesses can flourish alongside the bigger ones.

The Federal Government has an important role to play.   Unfortunately, it has become all too common during the past six years for the Federal Government not to meet its small business contracting goals.   This year is no exception.   According to Eagle Eye Publishers, an independent source for federal contracting statistics, the Federal Government spent more than 412 billion dollars on federal procurement in 2006.   Twenty-three percent of that was supposed to go to small businesses.   But only 20 percent actually wound up there.   This failure by federal departments and agencies to meet their small business contracting goals represents 12 billion dollars in lost opportunities and revenues for the nation's small businesses.

I'm on the Small Business Committee and I recently chaired a field hearing in Prince George's County to examine the problems small, minority, and women-owned businesses have when it comes to federal contracting.   I am working with Senator Kerry (D-MA), who chairs the Committee, on legislation that will address a number of the issues the hearing focused on.

 

First, we're going to limit the practice of bundling contracts that could and should go to small, minority, and women-owned firms.

 

Second, we're going to look at ways to protect small businesses engaged in subcontracting from the various abuses prime contractors get away with, such as not paying subcontractors on a timely basis.

 

Third, we want to update the net worth threshold for the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.

 

Fourth, we're working on a number of provisions that will bring some accountability and transparency to the procurement process.

 

With BRAC underway, we have in our backyard a tremendous opportunity to change the way the Federal Government deals with small, minority, and women-owned business contractors for the better - not only here but nationally.   Our State is uniquely poised to benefit from the billions of dollars that will be deposited here in the form of construction, service, and product procurement contracts.   This is an excellent opportunity for the Department of Defense's procurement office to create an innovative platform for working with small businesses that can become a model for the nation.

 

I guess the bottom line is that here in Maryland, we're in the enviable position of having enough to go around - enough for the Fortune 500 companies headquartered or otherwise doing business here, and enough for the smaller firms.   As I said, I want to see all of the businesses in this State flourish.

 

At the national level, it seems that so much of the economic news we hear these days is bad.   Oil prices are hovering at 100 dollars per barrel.   The nation's housing market is in a crisis that's probably going to get worse before it gets better.   The dollar is sliding to all-time lows against other currencies.

 

Here in Maryland, the news is much more positive.   The critical thing, as G.K. Chesterton said, is whether we take things for granted or take them with gratitude.   I doubt that anyone here this morning takes our enviable situation for granted.

 

In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your hard work in making B-W-I Thurgood Marshall Airport one of the "Top 10 Easiest U.S. Airports To Get To," according to Aviation-dot-com.   That level of success doesn't happen by accident.

 

I want you to know that Senator Mikulski and I, together with the rest of the delegation, will work just as hard as you do to get the federal infrastructure spending the airport, this region, and the rest of the State require to accommodate a rapidly growing workforce and keep people, goods, and services moving efficiently.   I just would ask for your help in persuading the administration that it's a good investment.

 

Thank you.