-- Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Mark-Up --
Three years, over a dozen hearings, markups, floor consideration, conference and endless negotiations: Mr. Chairman, it is time to finish this process and pass a comprehensive transportation bill. Last Congress we came close to moving highway legislation to the President’s desk for signature. Hopefully this year we will avoid the traffic jams and potholes we faced in 2004.
Our main obstacle has been the Administration’s insistence that this bill be totally underfunded. The funding proposals from the White House for our nation’s transportation needs have been inadequate and received in the Senate like advice from a back seat driver.
Today, we consider a bill that is marginally improved. But we can do better. And we will. I plan to join with a number of my colleagues on this committee, and throughout the Senate, to boost funding for this legislation as we move to the floor. We all recognize this bill is still under construction, the funding levels must be increased if we really want to relieve traffic congestion, improve the safety and quality of our roads and bridges and help our states.
From the beginning, this bill has been a model of bipartisanship. Both sides have made concessions on numerous issues, many contentious. But we all know the only way to move a bill of this magnitude was to work together. I appreciate the commitment from you, Mr. Chairman, and from Senator Bond and Senator Baucus to stick together through conference to ensure that we provide a transportation bill that fulfills our commitments to our members, our states and to the nation.
We also have the Reliable Fuels Act of 2005 on the agenda today. For thirty years, I have been a strong supporter of renewable and alternative fuels. I supported similar versions of this legislation in the 108th and 107th Congress. There were warm words of praise and promises of support for the Committee's product from the important players on this measure in 2003. But the 2003 energy bill conference committee took our work and ripped it apart. They left the renewable fuels requirement in, stripped out the important air and water quality protections, and provided inappropriate liability relief to MTBE manufacturers. That was unacceptable. I have seen no sign to suggest that this bill will meet a different fate. I have also seen no sign that the important players are lined up to help move this package any more effectively. If those signs materialize, I might support this package, assuming the toxics performance baseline is updated. Until then, I think it would be premature for me to support this legislation. Thank you.