Statement by Senator Bob Smith
Subcommittee Hearing on ISTEA Reauthorization
November 4, 1997

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to commend you and Senator Chafee for your hard work and diligence in getting a responsible, six-year ISTEA reauthorization bill to the Senate floor. S. 1173 is a good bill and should be passed by the Senate this year.

However, it now appears more and more likely that the Senate will be unable to take up 5.1173 during the remainder of this session, and, thus, the reason for today's hearing. In light of this unfortunate predicament, it cannot go unstated that we wouldn't be sitting here today listening to witnesses about the impacts of not passing a transportation bill if members on the other side of the aisle had acted responsibly and allowed the Senate to consider a bill that was reported unanimously out of this Committee.

The Senate had an opportunity to take the high ground and pass a responsible, six-year bill that would give our states the long-term funding certainty that they need, but a minority in the Senate was able to prevent that from happening this year. In lieu of passing a multi-year bill, several groups are calling for a short-term extension, which I believe is also fraught with problems.

While I certainly understand the concern among state agencies, the construction industry, and the Federal Highway Administration about the lack of new funds becoming available, I believe we need to look at alternatives to passing a six-month extension, which could get mired in the same formula battles as a six-year bill.

The pressure must remain on Congress to pass a long- term authorization bill. Many states have adequate funding through February or March if given additional flexibility on how they can spend their transportation dollars. Though I remain committed to moving a six-year bill, I'm willing to take a look at various options to provide this additional flexibility, as well as funding for important safety programs, without getting us into a formula fight.

With that in mind, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the impacts of the current situation and their views on various proposals to provide interim funding. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.