WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, expressed strong concerns about the direction Congress is taking on the highway bill after the Commerce Committee approved an 18 month extension of the highway bill safety programs which expire on September 30. Although she supports the Commerce Committee legislation, Hutchison said she had reservations about extending highway construction programs because it will perpetuate existing funding formulas that penalize Texas and other donor states.
“We are being asked to move this extension now because the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money next month,” said Senator Hutchison. “Clearly, we have an obligation to ensure the continuity of these important safety programs, as well as the very important highway funding that each state relies on to address their most pressing transportation needs. However, I have serious reservations about an extension that runs a full 18 months. I believe an 18 month extension of the highway construction programs is too long. Instead, Congress should act more quickly on a comprehensive highway reauthorization measure. Donor states like Texas should not be required to continue funding other states’ transportation needs for an additional 18 months at the expense of our own priorities.”
In April, Senator Hutchison introduced S. 903, the Highway Fairness and Reform Act of 2009, to give states the choice to opt-out of the federal highway program and instead be rebated federal fuel taxes collected within their borders. The bill would cut the overwhelming majority of federal strings attached, but would require that rebated taxes be spent on surface transportation projects. This option would allow all states to receive a more equitable distribution of gas tax dollars, while ensuring funds are directed toward improving transportation in high growth areas of our states.
Senator Hutchison wrote to Secretary Ray LaHood earlier this month to urge him to move quickly to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money in August 2009, using unspent stimulus funding. She said this would ensure that highway funding continues uninterrupted to improve our nation’s roads and provide jobs to promote the nation’s economic recovery.
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