WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today voted in favor of legislation that includes an extension of the federal highway program until December 31, 2010. Given the tremendous impacts on states, a long-term extension of the Highway Program has been a top priority for Inhofe since the program expired back on October 1, 2009. Inhofe led a number of bipartisan efforts over the past several months to get an extension completed.
"I am extremely pleased that after months of unnecessary delay, the United States Senate finally passed legislation that includes an extension of the Federal Highway Program," Inhofe said. "Oklahoma and states across the nation have been forced to pay a steep price, in many cases with significant jobs losses and cancelled highway projects, because of the failure of Democrats and Republicans in Washington to come together sooner to get the job done. The series of short term extensions the highway program has been operating under since October has funded the program $1 billion a month lower than 2009. This long-term extension fixes that and restores the funding, which according to Gary Ridley, Oklahoma's Transportation Secretary, means an additional $15 million a month in additional funding. With the extension now passed, states will have the needed certainty to move forward on transportation projects, leading to more jobs in many cases.
"The real outrage is how long it took Congress to act. With the billions of dollars of wasteful spending pouring out of Washington these days, it's unforgivable that it took us this long to get a provision passed that will mean more jobs and investment in America's transportation system. It is ironic that some of the most outspoken critics of this measure supported the $700 billion bailout.
"I have said repeatedly that transportation infrastructure is one of the best forms of stimulus spending that the government has at its disposal. The economic benefits from transportation investment include both immediate job creation from construction and long-term economic benefits associated with the completed project. It's time for Congress to get our priorities straight and invest in areas that will ensure long-term economic growth.
"Some of my colleagues disagree with the legitimacy of recouping the $8 billion that Bill Clinton took from the Highway Trust Fund in 1998, but Congress already decided to recoup those funds. It is only logical that we get back the interest too. According to CRS, the Highway Trust Fund is the only trust fund that does not receive interest."
Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation, Gary Ridley, thanked Inhofe for his leadership in the Senate to get an extension passed: "I am pleased that the US Senate today passed a long-term extension of the Federal Highway Program which is of critical importance to Oklahoma. Today we have projects sitting in the queue but can't move forward on them because of lack of funds. This winter has been especially hard on our bridges, in fact we have had to close a bridge at 163rd St and I-44 in Tulsa because it was unsafe. Not properly funding our highway infrastructure is coming to a head, so getting this longer term extension done now is imperative. I want to thank Senator Inhofe in particular for his tremendous leadership in getting this extension passed. There is never any question that Oklahoma transportation needs are always a top priority for him."