WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today continued his push for immediate Congressional action to address the need for a six month highway extension.
This morning, Senator Inhofe was pleased to welcome Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley back to Washington. In their meeting, Ridley reinforced the need for Congress to pass a highway extension as soon as possible. Senator Inhofe has been a leader in the United States Senate in pushing for an extension, given concerns about lost highway dollars going back to states and the number of jobs lost. Inhofe was pleased to inform Sec. Ridley that he has joined with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the EPW Committee; Senator Chris J. Dodd (D-CT), Chair of the Banking Committee; Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), Ranking of Banking Committee; Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair of Commerce Committee; Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ranking on Commerce Committee; and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of Finance Committee, in sending a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), urging them to “file cloture on the motion to proceed on the 6-month extension and dedicate the time necessary to complete this important legislation, so we can put Americans back to work and keep our economy moving.”
Inhofe Meets With Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation
“Today, I was pleased to welcome Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley back to Washington,” said Senator Inhofe. “Gary is in town to emphasize the importance of Congress getting to work on passing a longer term highway extension as soon as possible. I couldn’t agree more and expressed to him my concern that Congress is continuing to wait to the last minute to work on an agreement. This simply cannot happen again.
“To help spur action, I have reached out to a number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who have jurisdiction on the highway extension to send a letter to Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell to bring the bill up to the Floor this week. With talk of health care legislation coming up in the near future, I remain concerned that Congress will run out of time to get the extension done, costing states further loss of money and jobs.
“As Gary pointed out again today, the costs of Congressional inaction are high. Failing to pass the extension would mean the highway program would be funded at levels 33 percent lower than what states received under the last highway bill. This translates into a $1 billion per month loss for states - $15.4 million a month for Oklahoma. Oklahoma, like all states, only received one month’s funding, essentially killing their ability to plan ahead, while at the same time providing 33 percent less funding. Further, this extension has and will continue to create uncertainty and erratic funding for states, who are responding to the last 30 day extension by delaying projects and not awarding contracts—essentially ending the construction season early for states as we head into the winter months. This is happening because states cannot afford to move forward with transportation development activities without confidence in long-term and consistent future federal reimbursements. "
Tomorrow at 2:30pm, senior officials of the Department of Transportation will brief the Environment and Public Works Committee Members on the need for an extension of the highway program as well as an update on their multi-year reauthorization proposal. Senator Inhofe welcomes the opportunity to further discuss the impacts that the lower funding levels under these short term extensions are having on the economy. Senator Inhofe remains confident that the administration will agree that we cannot continue to shortchange infrastructure investment at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
Full Text of the Boxer-Inhofe letter below:
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader, United States Senate
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader, United States Senate
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
One of the best ways to spur job creation and economic recovery is through infrastructure investment. That is why a longer term extension of the surface transportation program is so important to maintaining our nation’s vital bridges, roads, public transportation and other related infrastructure, restoring our economy and creating good jobs for American workers.
In July, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs each reported an 18-month extension of the surface transportation program prior to the expiration of the 2005 surface transportation bill, the Safe Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), with bipartisan support.
We believe a multi-month extension of SAFETEA-LU is the best solution. It would give states the certainty they need to plan and contract for transportation infrastructure projects. The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportation and matched by the states supports approximately 35,000 jobs. It would also give the Department of Transportation’s highway safety agencies the certainty they need to continue implementing safety-critical programs that keep motorists safe on our roads. SAFETEA-LU expired at the end of September and, unfortunately, there was objection to floor consideration of the bipartisan legislation extending these important programs.
This necessitated two short term extensions to the surface transportation program, attached to Continuing Resolutions. Short term extensions mean less money is available for states, and do not provide states the certainty they need to keep crucial transportation projects moving forward.
On a bipartisan basis, we have decided to move forward with a 6-month extension. Unfortunately, a small number of Senators continue to object and will not allow an extension to be considered by the Senate without a cloture vote.
We urge you to file cloture on the motion to proceed on the 6-month extension and dedicate the time necessary to complete this important legislation, so we can put Americans back to work and keep our economy moving.