Statement of Senator James Jeffords
Highway Bill Conference Meeting Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’d like to thank Senators Inhofe, Bond, and Baucus for their continued leadership on this legislation, as well as all of my Senate colleagues who have worked with us. And of course I appreciate the efforts of our House counterparts, Congressmen Young and Oberstar. We wouldn’t be here without you. I feel a sense of deja vous. It was almost a year ago to the day when we met for the first time as conferees during the 108th Congress. And here we are again, a year’s worth of construction time lost. I hope we are able to work more quickly this session and finally pass a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. Our staffs are working hard to negotiate the critical policy issues that are encompassed by our bills. We all want a safer, faster, cleaner, and more efficient transportation system. Their progress encourages me to think we may actually be able to finish before we run out of time. I quickly want to mention two points that I believe are critical to the sustainability of our efforts. First, the overall funding level of the bill has been the focus of much debate and attention, for good reason. In order to meet the objectives of this legislation, we need a robust funding level. We cannot support a strong rate of return to states and develop the core programs that our nation’s transportation managers rely on without increasing the funding levels. We all know it’s important to be fiscally responsible. But what could be more responsible than promoting a strong economy and the safety of our citizens? There is some concern over where these additional funds come from. I have every confidence in Senators Grassley and Baucus on the Finance Committee. I know what they have done is solid and I support their efforts. Second, the scope of the bill needs to be addressed. Our states are begging for this funding. They deserve to get as much of it as possible, and the flexibility to use it as they see fit. No one knows what’s best for Vermont more than the people who live and work there. I want to be able to give them the opportunity to advance their priorities. Therefore, I support the Senate’s scope of 92%. With those key issues in mind, let’s get to work and finish this bill quickly. Let’s not waste another minute. Thank you.