OPENING STATEMENT OF SEN. JAMES M. JEFFORDS
Thank you, Senator Reid.
First, let me say that I look forward to working closely with you as we proceed toward reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Program. This subcommittee will be our think tank in the months ahead.
Let me also thank all of our fellow EPW Committee members for joining me in sponsoring S. 1917, the Highway Funding Restoration Act. Through S 1917, we have taken an important step toward ensuring that the nation=s transportation program will be properly funded in fiscal year 2003.
We have borne many burdens as a nation over the last few months. Now is not the time to backslide on our commitments to the traveling public. The construction season is just around the corner in my state of Vermont. Literally thousands of jobs are supported by our investment in transportation. We can=t shortchange this sector if we expect to pull out of recession.
S. 1917 is fiscally responsible. It funds the highway program at the authorized levels. At those levels, the balance in the Highway Trust Fund can support the spending.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about both the immediate budget outlook and the longer-term picture.
Good afternoon to Assistant Secretary McLean and to Administrator Peters. Your partnership and cooperation in our process is greatly appreciated.
I=m delighted also to see the outstanding panel of industry representatives and state officials. These folks understand the outcomes of our budget decisions. I am most concerned with outcomes.
I know that resources will be the heart of the matter as we craft the committee=s reauthorization proposals. It is vital that we get spending right for the coming year. Fiscal year 2003 will set the base for the six-year program we are about to authorize.
I want to achieve a balanced transportation system in this country. I want a system that provides choices to our citizens, that is secure and reliable.
As we proceed with the committee=s hearing agenda, we will receive a detailed accounting of the transportation system=s needs and opportunities for the future. I expect that the needs will be great and the opportunities breathtaking! We must ensure that the resources are there to be called on.
So again, I thank you Senator Reid.