Oklahoman: Legislation will give state Transportation Department access to federal money, Inhofe says
March 18, 2010
Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov
In Case You Missed it . . .
Obama set to OK roads, job bill
Legislation will give state Transportation Department access to federal money, Inhofe says
BY CHRIS CASTEEL | Oklahoman
Published: March 18, 2010
WASHINGTON - Sen. Jim Inhofe on Wednesday hailed Senate passage of a bill to help small businesses and pump more money into road building, saying Oklahoma's highway department has been on "life-support" waiting for a long-term transfusion of federal money.
President Barack Obama smiles as he speaks during a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 17, 2010.
The legislation, approved by a vote of 68-29, "will ensure states receive the money they are owed and provide the long-term certainty that is the lifeblood of state and local highway and bridge programs," said Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill today; he and other Democrats have pledged that the bill will be the first of a series of efforts to create jobs in this election year.
Besides dealing with highway funding issues, the legislation also offers payroll tax breaks to small businesses that hire the unemployed and $1,000 tax credits for each employee kept on for a year. It would also allow more generous tax treatment of new equipment purchases by small businesses.
The problem for state highway departments was created when the law dictating "surface" transportation policy expired in September, and Congress enacted short-term extensions under rules that triggered deep cuts in contracting authority.
Oklahoma's Transportation Department effectively lost access to $15 million a month in contracting authority. That will be restored under the bill passed Wednesday, and it will be retroactive to Oct. 1 and effective through the end of this year. On top of that, the state will get an additional $14 million to spend in various transportation programs through 2010.
Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate committee that writes highway bills, said Wednesday that lawmakers now can start working on a new highway bill; they typically last about five years.
"As I have long said, transportation spending is one of our primary responsibilities as lawmakers here in Congress," Inhofe said. "I look forward to working closely with Republicans and Democrats in both Houses to produce a bill that is good for Oklahoma and the nation."
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, voted against the bill, which is expected to add about $13 billion to the federal deficit.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., argued against the measure Wednesday, saying, "This isn't so much a jobs bill as a debt bill."