Inhofe Supports Bill, But Disappointed Congress Fails to Provide States Needed Certainty
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today voted in support of a short term fix for the highway trust fund shortfall. The Senate, following the lead of the House, voted today in favor of transferring $7 billion to the Highway Trust Fund to prevent it from running out of funds before the end of September, when the current federal fiscal year ends. As a result, Congress will still need to either pass a reauthorization bill or extension by the end of September.
“I am disappointed that the Senate was forced into following the House in passing a short term Highway Trust Fund fix that falls well short of what is needed for our states,” Senator Inhofe said. “While the bill provides the necessary funds to ensure the Trust Fund does not go bankrupt in the next sixty days, it fails to provide States with the long term certainty they need. Unfortunately, this approach means Congress will be back in less than sixty days to do this all over again. Rather than wait two months to pass a long term extension, we should be doing that today. It would be the more responsible approach.
“The bottom line is that we need to pass an extension of the highway program. There is simply no way that Congress will be able to pass a reauthorization of the highway bill before the program expires at the end of September. There are simply too many big questions left that must be answered, including how we are going to pay for it. A better approach is to pass a longer term extension. I am pleased to be working closely with Senator Boxer and the Obama administration on a long term extension and believe we will succeed in passing an extension as soon as we return in September.”
Senator Inhofe supported a number of important amendments to Oklahoma. Each of the amendments were defeated.
“I am further disappointed that a number of amendments were defeated on the Senate floor that would have greatly improved the bill. For example, I supported Senator Vitter’s amendment to use unspent stimulus dollars to help with the highway trust fund shortfall. Simply put, if the stimulus money has not even been obligated yet, it is, by definition, not stimulating the economy. Senator Vitter’s amendment would have taken idle stimulus money and redirected it to repaying states for construction projects that are underway now.
“The Senate also rejected an important amendment offered by Senator Bond that would have addressed the looming $8.7 Billion SAFETEA-LU 2009 rescission. When we passed SAFETEA in 2005, there was well over $20 billion in unneeded contract authority. Since then, however, appropriations bills have reduced this to levels that will make the rescission very difficult for most States. In fact, some will not have sufficient excess contract authority to cover their share of the rescission. My good friend Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley recently told me that Oklahoma stands to lose $40 million in projects that were supposed to begin this year. I have assured Sec. Ridley that when Congress returns in September, we will make every effort to address this important issue as well."