November 09, 2011

Highway Bill Improved With Crapo Additions

Rural state funding maintained as Senate EPW Committee marks up bill

Washington, D.C.   - Idaho and other rural states will maintain their share of federal highway dollars under a draft highway spending bill approved by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and fellow members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today.  The committee included language from Crapo amendments in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 st Century (MAP-21) legislation.  The highway bill faces additional Senate committee hearings before a vote on the floor.  The two-year measure follows the old SAFE-TEA funding bill, which expired in Fiscal Year 2009.

"States like Idaho have long rural stretches of road that connect the country and few people to support these roads," Crapo said before the committee meeting today, thanking colleagues for agreeing to maintain funding percentages that are fair to rural areas.  "At a time when generating jobs is such an important focus, this approach puts funds to work more quickly than otherwise distributing them through discretionary and allocation programs."

The bipartisan MAP-21 bill consolidates federal programs by two-thirds and eliminates earmarks.  It expedites project completion goals while protecting environmental concerns like air quality.  States receive more flexibility for highway and bridge funding and traffic congestion relief in the legislation.  Efficiency and emergency repairs for natural disasters are also targeted.  Crapo's amendments focused on flexibility for states regarding funding, and limiting additional planning mandates, especially for ongoing and multi-year transportation projects.

Committee members approved the bill unanimously.  While this step represents a win for rural states like Idaho, more work is needed to address the funding shortfall.  Revenue from fuel taxes has diminished as a result of increasing efficiencies and is no longer projected to cover our transportation needs.  But Crapo, who is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, tasked with funding the shortfall, and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that will contribute transit components to the bill, said that today's action represents an important first step to passing a much-needed transportation reauthorization bill. 

"In this time of massive deficits, funding for critical infrastructure needs should be based on a sound fiscal plan and no longer rely on borrowing funds to prop up shortfalls," Crapo concluded. 

"Now is the time for Congress to focus on proposals that can garner the support of both parties and make it to the President's desk for signature.  This bipartisan legislation is just that--it's one of the best jobs bills that Congress could consider right now," Crapo concluded.