Surface Transportation Bill Conference Opening Meeting
May 8, 2012
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Colleagues: I trust we all know how fortunate and blessed we are to have this opportunity to save or create three million jobs and protect thousands of businesses as we meet the needs of America's transportation system.
There is no other group of Americans that get this chance. Failure is not an option for us.
Not when 70,000 of our bridges are deficient, not when 50 percent of our roads are below standard, and not when construction businesses and workers are suffering. Not when thousands of middle class construction jobs are being lost now, due to endless extensions.
Because of those endless extensions, many states have limited the funds available to hire workers for construction projects due to funding uncertainty, costing thousands of jobs all across America - right now!
What we do here today and in the days and weeks ahead has ramifications for so many businesses. I met with a California refinery today and learned that one-third of their business is asphalt production, and that business has declined 40 to 50 percent. The uncertainty in funding for transportation programs is hurting them badly.
In addition, I learned from the Associated Equipment Distributors that the same uncertainty has caused construction businesses to rent equipment that in the past they had the confidence to buy. This has depressed their businesses, placing a further drag on the economy and increasing unemployment.
As we work to pass a new surface transportation bill, here is a picture I hope you will keep in mind. It's a Super Bowl stadium filled to capacity. Now imagine 12 of these stadiums filled to capacity. That's how many construction workers are unemployed today - 1.2 million.
Those workers and those businesses are counting on us and believe in us, and they should.
If Senator Inhofe and Senator Boxer can agree on a bill, then we can all agree. If Senator Sessions and Senator Sanders can agree, then we can all agree. If Senator Baucus and Senator Blunt can agree, then we can all agree.
Now some pundits and experts have predicted gloom and doom when it comes to this bill. They were wrong in the past, and they are wrong now.
This is our job, and we will do it.
We have the wind at our backs, because we have a Senate bill (MAP-21) that is a reform bill that received 74 votes in favor. It protects and creates three million jobs - one million of those because of an expanded TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program that has strong support.
In addition to the expanded TIFIA program, MAP-21 includes many efficiencies. For highway programs alone, MAP-21 consolidates 90 programs into less than 30. It eliminates earmarks, gives states more flexibility, establishes performance measures, accelerates project delivery, and sets up a new freight program.
The country needs us to pass a surface transportation bill so that we can fix our aging infrastructure, put people back to work, and boost the economy. The health of our businesses, workers, and communities depend on it.
We have an unprecedented coalition supporting us, encouraging us, and expecting us to succeed.
Here are a few of those groups:
American Association of State Highway and Transit Officials
American Public Transportation Association
American Road and Transportation Builders Association
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Trucking Associations
Associated General Contractors of America
Associated Equipment Distributors
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Conference of Mayors
In addition to our core mission, we have a wonderful opportunity to approve broadly supported measures that should unite us:
• The RESTORE Act
• The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund
• The Secure Rural Schools Program are examples.
So colleagues, I look forward to working with all of you.
My door is open, and I believe that each and every one of you wants success - and success means working together for the good of the people we represent.
Chairman Mica is now recognized.