Different landscape for Shuster

Despite the father-son bond and both heading up the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we don’t expect to see a Bill Shuster Highway being built anytime soon.

It’s a matter of different men, different times and different priorities.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t glad that U.S. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, has been chosen to head up the Transportation Committee. As the chairman, Shuster will wield considerable influence to shape transportation spending. And his familiarity with the region and its transportation needs will help make sure our interests are considered.

But the reality that Bill Shuster must work within in Washington in 2013 is drastically different than what his father, Bud Shuster, faced in 1995, when he took the reins of the House Transportation Committee.

Bud Shuster headed the panel at a time in which the federal fuels tax created a surplus and made projects such as the construction of Interstate 99 possible. A Congressional Budget Office reports that in 2000, the Highway Trust Fund had a $31 billion balance. And at that time, earmarks to designate money for particular projects were common practice in the halls of Congress.

Bud Shuster used those circumstances to funnel money to the area to improve our roads, and we’re grateful for that.

The situation facing Bill Shuster is different. Earmarks are now taboo, and instead of the Highway Trust Fund having a surplus, since 2008, Congress has had to transfer about $35 billion to keep the account in the black.

In May, a CBO report noted that over the next decade, based on 2012 spending, the Highway Trust Fund will take in about $442 billion but would expend about $589 billion, a $147 billion shortfall.

Trying to bridge that chasm between revenue and expenditures will be one of the challenges facing Bill Shuster as the top representative on transportation issues.

In his tenure as head of the House Transportation Committee, we expect that Bill Shuster will strive to help the area and the state, including working to make sure Pennsylvania’s role as a transportation corridor is recognized as funding is spread around.

And we think Shuster will press the cases for needed highway projects in his district. After all, that’s part of his job.

Eighteen years after his father became chairman of the Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster has followed in his steps. But the realities and the paths they will take will be different, despite a common desire to do what’s best for the 9th District and the state.