Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus urged quick action today at the first meeting of the bipartisan House-Senate Conference Committee tasked with producing a Highway Bill Compromise. As Chairman of the Finance Committee and head of the Environment on Public Works Transportation Subcommittee, Baucus was instrumental in crafting the bipartisan 2-year Senate bill that would support 14,000 Montana jobs without adding a dime to the deficit. The current Highway Bill extension is set to expire at the end of June.
"I spent last week at home with the people I work for, and my Montana bosses sent me back with one clear priority: jobs," Baucus told the 46 other members of the Conference Committee.
"On Thursday, I sat down with business leaders, local officials, and contractors in the Flathead to discuss the Kalispell Bypass. This truck thoroughfare skirts west around town, allowing traffic to move more efficiently from surrounding communities. That means easier access for trucks moving goods that support American jobs, less time for tourists sitting in their cars and more time spending money at local businesses, and, dozens of construction jobs in a community that needs them.
"Construction season has started. Fourteen thousand Montana jobs and 1.6 million jobs across America depend on this Highway Bill.
"The bipartisan Senate bill received a unanimous vote from the Environment and Public Works Committee's 18 urban, rural, western, eastern, northern, southern, progressive and conservative Senators. And, 75 percent of the Senate supported it. It provides certainty communities need to plan and begin construction. And it invests in highway jobs, without adding a dime to the deficit.
"There are projects just like the Kalispell Bypass in every one of our states that need a green light from this bill. So, let's get to work."
Baucus Senate Plan
The bipartisan Senate bill Baucus crafted would invest in highway projects for two years without adding to the deficit, and provide the certainty needed to plan and begin construction on major projects.
In fact, Congresses' official scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, says Baucus' Senate Bill will actually reduce the deficit by $10 billion over the next decade and it makes a down payment on future highway jobs by leaving the Highway Trust Fund with a nearly $4 billion cushion at the end of two years.
Baucus' bill passed the Senate in March with the overwhelming support of 75 percent of the Senate, and is expected to create or sustain 14,000 jobs a year in Montana.
Baucus' bill also renews the commitment to rural forest communities through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs that brought nearly $50 million to Montana counties last year, and provides full funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for one year.
The House Plan
The House-passed bill provides for only a 90-day extension beyond June and continues drawing on the Highway Trust fund without a plan to pay for the spending. Continued short-term extensions, such as this, that do not replenish the spending, would leave the Trust Fund broke by early next year. The House bill does not include funding for SRS, PILT or LWCF.
Timeline of Baucus' recent work:
March 29, 2012 - Baucus: Senate Bill Best Solution for Montana Highway Jobs
March 26, 2012 - Baucus Calls on U.S. House to Give the Highway Bill the Green Light
March 14, 2012 - Baucus Steers Highway Bill through U.S. Senate
March 12, 2012 - Baucus: Montana Highway Jobs Cannot Afford Unnecessary Delays
March 8, 2012 - Baucus Secures Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Rural Schools, Jobs
February 7, 2012 - Baucus' Highway Bill Rolls through Finance Committee, Heads to Senate Floor
November 9, 2011 - Baucus' Bipartisan Highway Bill Gets Green Light from Public Works Panel
Production quality video and audio:
MP3 audio file: https://s3.amazonaws.com/sdmc-media.senate.gov/Baucus/050812_BAUCUS_1_AUDIO.mp3
MPEG2 video files:
Pathfire Feed: Slug: Baucus Highway Conference
1. On the left side of the Pathfire/DMG main page, click on Video News Feed (Master VNF Locator).
2. From the expanded list, double-click on VNF Provider B.
3. Click the U.S. Senate tab.
4. Locate and click (MT1) MT, Baucus. The link to the video will be displayed in the pane on the right.
For further instructions, visit http://democrats.senate.gov/tv/pathfire/baucus.pdf.