Statement of Sen. John Warner
ISTEA Reauthorization
Coeur d'Alene, ID
March 22, 1997

As I walked down main street today, it was a nostalgic trip thinking I was here in 1943 as a 15, almost 16-year-old young man. Why was I here? It was very simple. This is a patriotic community, and almost every able-bodied red-blooded man in those days had long since gone to wear the uniform of our country, and there was a desperate need in the forests for young persons to come out and help contain the ever-present fire situation, refurbish the trails and, indeed, our time off to do a little blister rust to protect the white pine.

Much has changed except one thing, and I detected it this morning in about a two-hour walk through this city. The people haven't changed. They were as friendly then as they are today. And I wish to extend my profound gratitude to them for providing a safe and secure and a happy summer of 1943, which I remember very vividly.

I'm happy to be here today because my colleague and good friend said through my courtesy. Nonsense. It was through his leadership and really his insistence, together with Senator Baucus, that we take a Senate hearing, that we move to this pivotal area of the great West and get firsthand the views such as we are about to receive from your distinguished governor.

It is essential that this piece of legislation be shaped to reflect the special needs of the United States of America, not just the northeast corridor which dominated it so much in 1991.

I am a member of a coalition of states, primarily southern states, donor states, and it is my fervent hope that these two Senators and their states and four or five other western states will be the swing balance to bring about the equity and fairness that is needed in the redistribution of the Highway Trust Fund dollars back to the several states from that gas tax that each of us pays when we back up to the tank. I'll be joining Senator Baucus on his legislation to return the 4.3 cents, to distribute it between surface transportation and the AMTRAK. That's an essential piece of legislation if it were to block the efforts indeed of President Clinton to try to divert from your gas tax paid at the tank back to AMTRAK.

This bill will, I'm going to tell you, will be one of the most hard-fought battles in this Congress. I started my career -- Actually, when I left here in the summer of '43, I went into the Navy and became an electronics technician mate. I mention that only because electronics is a very important part of your growing industry. And you go ask that plant manager or that boss or the worker how they are able to compete with the rest of the world. And my guess is they will tell you a part of that competition is predicated upon transportation, turnaround time, to get that product to the user as quickly as possible. And that's what we are here for today, to determine how best to improve your surface transportation so that those workers, be they in the plants or in the fields or in the orchards, can turn those products around and get them to the user so that they are competitive, competitive with the other states, competitive in the one world market, which is so much the competition that faces all of us today.

So I thank you, Senator, for your leadership in getting this field hearing here and my distinguished colleague from Montana, Senator Baucus.