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Public Statements

Letter to the President

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, issued the following statement today calling on President Obama to make good on his recent statements in support of transportation and infrastructure funding to create jobs. On Aug. 31, Sept. 23 and Oct. 21, Sen. Voinovich sent the president letters urging him to support a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, which would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and be an immediate stimulus to the economy. Copies of all three letters are attached.

"Prior to the midterm elections, I was pleased to receive a phone call from President Obama acknowledging the first letter I sent, which urged him to support a multi-year reauthorization of the surface transportation bill," Sen. Voinovich said. "The president proceeded to spend much time on the stump touting his support for an infrastructure plan, but the administration's failure to produce principals for reauthorization legislation almost a year after the underlying law expired is baffling -- particularly when the president says he is committed to job creation. I urge President Obama to present his comprehensive infrastructure plan so we may begin moving forward on a reauthorization bill."

Passage of a robust multi-year reauthorization of the surface transportation bill is guaranteed to provide much needed certainty to a large segment of the American economy. Uncertainty regarding future federal surface transportation funding has caused states to put the brakes on job-creating transportation projects. According to T. Peter Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, "leading indicators portend a potential implosion of the transportation construction market in many states in the very near future -- with resulting heavy job losses -- absent leadership from Washington."

According to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), 30 states and the District of Columbia invested less in highways and bridges from January to June 2010 than they did during the same period last year, and the Highway Trust Fund is projected to become insolvent as soon as fiscal year 2012. On the other hand, a five-year reauthorization will support or create more than 785,000 jobs.

"From my conversation with the president, it was my understanding we could move a multi-year bill in the upcoming lame-duck session," Sen. Voinovich continued. "President Obama said in his press conference Wednesday that the proposal he put forward with respect to infrastructure is one that has historically had bipartisan agreement, and the president's infrastructure proposal includes the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill. The fact is dozens of organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, have called for the reauthorization and are willing to pay for it. The president should not allow this opportunity to slip through his fingers. We have some very talented people leaving the Senate and House at the end of this Congress who are willing to step up to the plate. Getting this done by the end of the year on a bipartisan basis could be a wonderful sorbet between this Congress and the next."

Please find copies of Sen. Voinovich's three letters to President Obama attached below.

August 31, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I want you to know that I understand you have the weight of the world on your shoulders; things are more challenging now for our country than at any time during my life. Americans are worried about our Nation's future and their own personal well-being, and this worry has resulted in a level of fear unlike anything I have seen since my memory of the Second World War.

People are quite unhappy with Washington because it appears to them that we do not understand their concerns. They, frankly, cannot understand why we will not get our collective act together to address what worries them. There are certainly looks of disbelief when Americans hear that last year we borrowed 41 cents of every dollar we spent.

That being said, we still have an opportunity to restore their faith in their government by coming together before the end of the year to begin to address our Nation's economic crisis. One example of how we can do this is by working with the debt commission you created by Executive Order to deal with our unsustainable debt and deficits.

Another thing we can do is to reauthorize the surface transportation bill. This past July, T. Peter Ruane, President of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), sent you a letter highlighting the importance of passing a transportation reauthorization bill this year. Mr. Ruane stated that uncertainty in our market regarding future federal surface transportation funding has caused many states to put on the brakes with regards to job creating transportation projects. In many states, these projects are not moving into either private-sector design or construction markets, resulting in a lack of hiring and the decline of large capital equipment purchases. Many construction-related firms have worked down most of their project backlog with little new work available for bid. In addition, Mr. Ruane's letter reports that 30 states and the District of Columbia invested less in highway and bridge contract awards from January to June 2010 than they did over the same period last year.

I am not alone in arguing that a robust surface transportation reauthorization is critically important and must be undertaken as quickly as possible. Although I agree with you that bipartisan support is hard to come by these days, the vital significance of this bill is recognized by my colleagues in the Senate. Senators Boxer, Inhofe, and Baucus and our staffs are working full time to get a bill done this year on a bipartisan basis. Daily, our staffs are putting in many hours drafting this bill. The House of Representatives has been working on reauthorization for two and half years, and the House bill has been voted out of subcommittee. Mr. President, you cannot show me another piece of legislation that we can get passed before the end of the year that has the bipartisan support of labor, manufacturing, business, truckers, and state and local groups, as well as from Congress. A copy of those supporting reauthorization, and paying for it by increasing the gas tax which has not been increased since 1993, is enclosed.

I understand that because of the gnashing of teeth about who will control Congress that a vote on reauthorization will not likely occur before November elections, but to get this bill done before the end of the year requires your leadership, so I urge you to help us pass this important legislation much like President Reagan did in 1982. Without your support, it will surely not get done this year, and God only knows what the negative impact on our country will be.
Sincerely,

George V. Voinovich
United States Senator

P.S. Enclosed is a summary prepared by the Congressional Research Service that explains how President Reagan passed a similar bill after the 1982 midterm elections.

cc: Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation

Groups Supporting Gas Tax Increase
* American Coal Ash Association
* American Concrete Pavement Association
* American Concrete Pipe Association
* American Council of Engineering Companies
* American Society of Civil Engineers
* American Iron and Steel Institute
* American Subcontractors Association
* American Traffic Safety Services Association
* Asphalt Emulsion Manufacturers Association
* Asphalt Recycling and Reclaiming Association
* Associated Equipment Distributors
* Association of Equipment Manufacturers
* International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers
* International Slurry Surfacing Association
* International Union of Operating Engineers
* Laborers' International Union of North America
* Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust
* National Asphalt Pavement Association
* National Association of Surety Bond Producers
* National Lime Association
* National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
* National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
* National Utility Contractors Association
* Portland Cement Association
* Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute
* The Road Information Program
* United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
* American Trucking Association (ATA)
* Chamber of Commerce
* National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
* National League of Cities
* National Council of State Legislators
* National Association of Counties Organization (N ACO)
* International City/County Management Association
* Association of Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)
* American Public Transit Association (APTA)
* Association of General Contractors (AGC)

September 23, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

In the course of the past few weeks, I have been happy to work with you on the passage of the small business bill. When it comes to legislation that creates vital jobs, we cannot afford to play games. This bill was desperately needed by our Nation and by the state of Ohio. I am pleased we got this done, and I am hopeful that the bill achieves the outcomes we anticipate.

I believe the same thing can be done with the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill. A robust five-year reauthorization is guaranteed to provide much needed certainty to a large segment of the economy. Uncertainty regarding future federal surface transportation funding has caused many states to put on the brakes with regards to job creating transportation projects. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have invested less in highways and bridges from January to June 2010 than they did over the same period last year. According to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Highway Trust Fund is projected to become insolvent by fiscal year 2012. The trust fund's insolvency will put 1.05 million jobs at risk in 2012 as funding will be reduced by billions of dollars. On the other hand, a five-year reauthorization will support or create over 785,000 jobs.

It was not my impression that your intention was to wait until 2012 to push a multi-year surface transportation bill. My understanding was that we could move a multi-year bill in the upcoming lame duck session. 1 am encouraged by what I've been hearing through the grapevine, but I think that with the changing landscape in Congress, an opportunity may be slipping through your grasp.
This past week, I spoke with Secretary LaHood regarding the importance of this bill. I told him that the Administration needs to be fully engaged and at the table as the House and Senate draft a bill so that it can be moved during the lame duck session. Congress has yet to see the Administration's proposal for the surface transportation bill reach our desks. I urge you to clear this comprehensive infrastructure plan so that we may begin moving forward.

Secretary LaHood also mentioned that one way to finance the reauthorization bill could be a tax on oil. However, 1 told the Secretary that this funding mechanism will, without a doubt, run into enormous flack. Raising funds through oil and gas tax increases is a nonstarter with many on both sides of the aisle. The oil and gas folks have mounted a very aggressive campaign suggesting that this will kill jobs, as I've pointed out to you in the past. I believe there needs to be a smorgasbord of funding options up for consideration. And one of them must clearly be a gas tax increase. As I told you when we spoke on the phone, you have a powerful coalition of labor, business and state and local groups who have publicly endorsed an increase in the gas tax as a way to pay for this bill. My hope is that, with your leadership, we can work aggressively in October to develop the contours of the reauthorization bill and resolve differences so that when everyone returns, we have a bill that is a three-fer --it retains and creates jobs, deals with our aging infrastructure, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This bill would create certainty in the transportation sector of our economy for five years and it is paid for!

Sincerely,

George V. Voinovich
United States Senator

P.S. Getting this done by the end of this year on a bipartisan basis could be a wonderful sorbet between this year and next year. Congress, with your leadership, can rise to the occasion. We have some very talented people leaving the Senate who would be willing to step up to the plate!

October 21, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The last time we talked, I thought you had under consideration the reauthorization of a robust surface transportation bill that would be paid for. I pointed out that there is a universal consensus that this could be done and that stakeholders across the country, including labor, manufacturing, business, truckers, and state and local groups, arc willing to pay for it with an increase in the gas tax. I pointed out to you that your proposal for raising funding through oil and gas increases would not fly, and that your proposed infrastructure bank would not be implemented soon enough to make a difference to the transportation sector of the economy already on its back with a 20 percent unemployment rate.

I believe that the chances of reauthorizing the surface transportation bill require the participation of the Administration. I am not going to lay out the details because I did so in my last letter to you on September 23rd. I wonder if you ever saw it?

Our best chance to get a reauthorization bill done is now - you must realize this. I am deeply disturbed that, despite House and Senate staff working on a bill, the Administration has still not laid on the table what you envision for this piece of legislation.

At the end of September, the nation's unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent. How can you tell the American people that you are concerned with job loss and a crumbling infrastructure when you continually refuse to take a seat at the table? If you are truly serious about persistently high job loss and decreasing that number by the promise of efforts to improve transportation infrastructure, I urge you to pick up the phone and communicate to Secretary LaHood what you believe should be in this bill.

The American people need a plan with substance. They need to know that there is certainty in the future of our transportation sector. I believe that passing a surface transportation bill will put a major part of the economy to rest and will provide certainty to our transportation sector. Without your leadership, we cannot accomplish this long-awaited and crucial component of our Nation's path to economic recovery.

Sincerely,

George V. Voinovich
United States Senator

P.S. I am not releasing this letter to the media until after the November 2nd elections.


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