Time to Get Moving on Transportation Funding

Crews dismantle the old Innerbelt bridge in Cleveland Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Demolition of the old bridge will make way f
Crews dismantle the old Innerbelt bridge in Cleveland Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Demolition of the old bridge will make way for a new, $273 million span carrying eastbound Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River valley. Its completion in 2016 will pair it with a new westbound bridge that opened in November 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Each year, I hope that the decisions I make in the legislature help to improve the lives of my constituents, create jobs in my community, and keep Ohio safe, healthy, thriving and economically sound. Though I wish that Ohio had a blank check and unlimited money to invest in the programs that our state needs, that just isn't reality; we have to carefully consider where we invest our limited dollars. After a father of four was tragically killed last month when a bridge collapsed in Cincinnati, it's very clear to me that investing in transportation and infrastructure needs to be a priority at both the state and federal levels.

We all count on having reliable roads, bridges and highways for industries transporting goods and also for citizens just trying to get to work or school. Yet, transportation and highway funding from the federal government has been stagnant for the last several years, and states are scrambling to close the gap. A healthy state-federal partnership is needed to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, but the federal budget blueprint doesn't build toward that goal.

I was disheartened to see that the President's Federal Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2016 again allocates inordinate sums -- more than half of the discretionary budget -- to the Pentagon and war spending. And adding insult to injury, the Defense Department continues to rely inappropriately on a special war spending account, using this for programs that should be part of the regular budget, and providing an additional $51 billion to the Pentagon. Any other federal agency, including those that serve veterans and military families, would love to also have access to that kind of extra money, but none except the Pentagon do. In contrast, transportation received only $26.1 billion in discretionary funding, only 2.3 percent of the discretionary budget.

Reshaping the Pentagon's budget is necessary not only to rebuild and reinvigorate our national transportation networks, but also to address 21st century security needs in a strategic, fiscally responsible way. For example, spending the planned $350 billion over the next decade on U.S. nuclear weapons is unwise and imperils our security. These weapons are ill-suited to address today's threats like cyber-attacks or nuclear terrorism. In fact, greater numbers of nuclear weapons means a higher likelihood for accidents, terrorism and diplomatic crises. Wouldn't we rather see those dollars put into the roads, bridges, highways, water mains, and other local infrastructure that our communities rely on daily?

The federal budget is a reflection of our nation's priorities. As the budget debate heats up in Washington, Congress must choose between investing in a safe and economically secure America, or siding with special interests and continuing to spend billions on wasteful programs that military leaders do not even want. I know how challenging it can be to come to agreement about how best to address our state's needs and prepare for the future, but making sure our citizens are safe and productive is a goal that we all share. As lawmakers, we can't allow our constituents to be killed or hurt because we are not investing our tax dollars properly. Let's get the show on the road and invest in the transportation and infrastructure projects so desperately needed in Ohio and across the U.S.