Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe
Senate Environment and Public Works Full Committee
Hearing on the Nomination of Thomas J. Madison, Jr. to be Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration for the Department of Transportation
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I’d like to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing so shortly after we received the necessary paperwork from the Administration. I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Madison last week and was impressed. Even though there is only about 6 months left in this Administration, it is quite important to have senior management in place to run an agency.
I think on of the most important surface transportation issue right now is the estimated Highway Trust Fund shortfall. A combination of more fuel efficient vehicles and higher gas prices which, for the first time, have resulted in a significant reduction of vehicle miles traveled, has caused sharp reductions in the amount of revenue coming into the Highway Trust Fund.
This problem is actually getting worse. OMB released its mid-session review this week. Estimates of 2008 trust fund receipts were $1.6 billion lower than estimates made just 6 months ago. The Senate has included a fix in a number of bills and the House passed a fix last week that would repay the Highway Trust Fund $8 billion that was transferred from the Trust Fund to the General Fund in 1998. Some critics of this fix have labeled it a bailout of the Trust Fund by the General Fund.
This is inaccurate and purposefully deceptive. This is just restoring money taken from the highway trust fund. This $8 billion was paid by American motorists with the expectation that the money would be reinvested into our transportation network.
This fix needs to be enacted into law as soon as possible in order to avoid cutbacks by the States in their planned transportation improvement projects for 2009. In my state of Oklahoma, these cuts would translate into a cut in federal funding of more than $172 million. This cut would result in a loss of more than 6,000 jobs in Oklahoma, and 485,000 jobs nationally. Senator Boxer and I authored a letter signed by 68 other Senators (70 total) urging immediate action on this problem. There is clearly sufficient support in Congress, it is just a matter of getting it done.
Mr. Madison, I support your nomination and I hope that if confirmed you will work with Congress to address this problem.