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Governors’ Report Urges Action on Transportation

Times Political Writer

State governments should take the lead in strengthening the country’s transportation system to help make the United States more competitive in world markets, according to a National Governors’ Assn. task force report issued here Saturday.

But the report, released as state chief executives gathered here for the association’s conference, said the federal government should help the states meet the cost of transportation improvements by delivering revenues accumulated in various federal trust funds for transportation.

“Billions of dollars that are committed to transportation uses, and only to transportation uses, are being held in the budget in Washington and not being spent out in America where they are supposed to be spent so that the (federal) budget deficit looks smaller,” said Republican Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois, the task force chairman.

$13 Billion Involved

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Governors’ association staffers said that more than $13 billion was involved, most of it in the highway trust fund raised by gasoline taxes and the aviation trust fund financed by taxes on airline tickets.

Federal officials have contended that the money is needed to meet future expenditures by the states.

The task force report urged states to take the initiative in establishing partnership arrangements with local governments, with federal agencies and with the private sectors to find new approaches to transportation planning and development.

“This nation needs to devote its attention to finding ways to improve all types of transportation infrastructure--highways, mass transit, airports and seaports,” said Thompson. “We must bring them up to this century and the fast-approaching 21st Century.”

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The transportation report was the final one in a series of six task force studies issued by the governors’ group in the last year, all with the overall purpose of improving U.S. competitiveness.

Can Identify Needs

Because of their close involvement with ownership and operation of transportation facilities, states are in the best position to identify needs, manage programs and build and operate improved transportation systems, the report said, but the federal government, in addition to accelerating outlay of trust fund revenues, should remove present limits on use of tax-exempt financing for transportation improvements by state and local governments. Also, the report urged Washington to increase its own spending for research and development to encourage technological improvements in transportation infrastructure.

“The cost of doing business is influenced by how well we move goods and people,” said Thompson. “For every dollar of export goods, about 25 cents is spent on the transportation of raw materials, semi-finished goods and components between domestic manufacturers.”

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In a statement reviewing the association’s work in the trade area, Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, a Virginia Democrat and the association chairman, stressed that close coordination is needed on a broad front. “As we have improved in one area of global competitiveness we have quickly realized that all the wheels must turn in concert,” he said.

Baliles said previous reports have dealt with the search for new markets abroad, communication with trading partners and competitors, investment in technology, education, work force training, access to capital and child welfare and development.

Bush to Speak

The three-day conference, which officially opens today, will hear an address by President Bush on Monday and will discuss subjects ranging from drugs and education to telecommunications and energy. But one topic that is not on the official agenda is the hottest issue now facing state politicians--the controversy resulting from the Supreme Court decision last month giving the states broader authority to regulate abortion.

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Baliles said that the decision had come too late to be included on the conference agenda, planning on which began about a year ago.

In addition, Baliles said: “This is a topic that will have to be argued within each state, depending on the political situation in each state. It is a topic that is unlikely to achieve the kind of consensus that would produce a policy resolution through the National Governors’ Assn.”


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