SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2003
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President. I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3087, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2003, which extends the expiring Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century for an additional 5 months.
As my colleagues are aware, we are just days from the expiration of TEA-21. We continue to make progress in our negotiations on a comprehensive 6-year bill, but we need more time. Earlier this year, 79 Senators voted for the Bond-Reid amendment to the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution which stated clearly that the Senate wanted the funding for a 6-year highway bill at $255 billion.
I believe $255 billion is a reasonable and responsible level given the pressing transportation infrastructure needs that are out there. Now the challenge is to get to that level. My colleagues on the Committee on Environment and Public Works and I have been working closely with Senators GRASSLEY and BAUCUS to find the money. In the meantime, we have to address the imminent expiration of TEA-21.
H.R. 3087 provides 5 months worth of the $35.5 billion allowed under the budget resolution of $14.8 billion and a corresponding amount of obligation limitation. This is a significant, 7 percent increase in highway funding over 2003. This additional $2.2 billion in highway funding will translate into over 100,000 new jobs.
Of course, the best thing we can do to create economic opportunity is enact a comprehensive, 6-year reauthorization. As we all know, highway bills are job bills. A highway bill drafted at $255 billion over 6 years will create about 2 million new American jobs. This combined with the tax cuts signed by President Bush is the best stimulus the economy can receive.
Let me be very clear that my preference is that we would be considering a 6-year comprehensive bill today, not a 5-month extension, but reality is that the funding needed to do a comprehensive 6-year bill at $255 billion has not yet been identified. Because of that, I believe the best outcome for the long-term is to do a 5-year month extension and continue to work on a comprehensive 6-year bill.
Again, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3087.
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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I want my colleagues from Michigan, Ohio, and the many other donor States to know that I am committed to improving the return to donor States. It is my intention that any comprehensive 6-year reauthorization bill considered by the Senate include a provision that guarantees all donor States get to a 95 percent minimum rate of return at the end of the life of the bill without harming the opportunity for all States to grow. However, Members need to understand that this is only possible if we are able to fund the bill at $255 billion which means we must identify additional revenue.
I also want to further assure my donor State colleagues that the next highway bill I plan to mark up is a 6-year bill.