Lawmakers continue to push long-term transportation plan

| 7/14/2009

Several key lawmakers on Capitol Hill refuse to back down from pushing forward with a six-year, $450 billion transportation plan.

Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is pushing in a different direction by supporting a White House proposal to extend the current highway funding formula by 18 months.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-OH, himself a member of the Senate EPW Committee, opposes the 18-month extension of the current highway plan known as SAFETEA-LU and says Congress could stimulate the economy more effectively with a six-year plan.

SAFETEA-LU is set to expire Sept. 30, and the Highway Trust Fund running out of funds to dole out to states.

The Senate EPW Committee is scheduled to mark up the short-term proposal on Wednesday, July 15, but Voinovich recently broke away during a recent hearing where he spoke in favor of the six-year plan offered in the House by Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

On Tuesday, July 14, Voinovich joined Oberstar and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-OR, in a press conference to promote the six-year plan.

The three lawmakers believe that a long-term measure will create more jobs and stimulate the economy better than a short-term extension would.

But passing a long-term authorization bill can take time.

The implementation of SAFETEA-LU, for example, took two years, forcing Congress to enact temporary funding measures for highways and bridges.

Voinovich stated that short-term stopgaps should not go beyond 12 months, according to Congressional Quarterly.

CQ also quoted Oberstar as saying “Inertia becomes the enemy of progress.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer