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Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004, Part V

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Location: Washington, DC


SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2004, PART V -- (House of Representatives - September 30, 2004)

Mr. REYNOLDS. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 811 and ask for its immediate consideration.

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the importance of infrastructure investments to my home State of New Jersey and our Nation cannot be overstated. More resources are desperately required to satisfy unmet needs, to improve livability, to alleviate congestion, to build safer roads, to upgrade and expand our mass transit system, to facilitate commerce, and create good-paying local construction jobs. Every $1 billion invested in Federal highway and transit spending means over 40,000 jobs are created or sustained.

Why do we only have an extension on the floor today rather than a good 6-year bill, a full 6-year bill that can benefit all of our States? The administration has been one of the biggest roadblocks in our path. For months, the administration would stonewall on supporting the funding necessary to get a right-sized bill. Their original proposal actively ignored new needs, choosing to keep the status quo. They did not want to make the tough choices in an election year to do what is right. The gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young), the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Lipinski), the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Petri), et cetera know what is right. They put a lot of hours into this legislation. Both sides of the aisle.

The President has been deafening in his silence on the importance of a highway bill. They choose to hold the highway bill hostage as a credit to their ideology of fiscal responsibility. That is a laugh. It is a joke. Everybody knows it is. This ignores the reality that we are running up record deficits. It ignores the reality that the interest we are paying on the debt, $300 billion this year, is equal to the entire government outlay in 1974.

So it cannot really be an issue of fiscal responsibility. It is just politics, plain and simple. I support the extension because we need to keep the funding flowing to the States, or we will stop those projects right in their tracks. Chairman Young and Ranking Member OBERSTAR understand that we need to keep our States working. They have understood it too well. Our committee to its credit always works in a bipartisan manner. At one point, 74 members of our committee supported a bill which actually provided the level of funding that our own Department of Transportation recommended. Imagine that, actually passing a bill based on need, not politics.

We need to keep up with aging roads and bridges and transit systems. Rather than sitting in traffic, we need to get parents home after work on time to take care of their families. But leadership has held down the investment and is holding back trust fund dollars which would alleviate congestion. Folks are paying gas taxes, user fees, and not spending that money as we should. 1998 was a long way off, the last time we passed this legislation. This is terrible. But we need to do this to keep the projects that are in the ground already working.

I welcome and congratulate the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Lipinski) for the fantastic job that he has done, not on our side of the aisle but for the United States Congress, not only for the people in his district but for all Americans; and we thank him today.

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