U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10) today made the following statement regarding the U.S. House of Representative's passage of the Conference Report accompanying H.R. 4348, which includes provisions directing the Secretary of the Army Corps to expedite the completion of the study and plan to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, including the use of hydrologic separation, provisions aimed at improving our nation's transportation and infrastructure, as well as a provision keeping interest rates for student loans low. Miller said:
"I applaud the inclusion of the measure to focus on preventing the spread of Asian carp. For years, I have been advocating for the health and protection of the Great Lakes in the halls of Congress. I and so many others have raised concerns over the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species pose to the Great Lakes. With the inclusion of this directive to expedite the Army Corps' study we are ensuring that the focus remains squarely on fast action when finding a permanent solution to preventing Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, including the use of hydrologic separation. The Great Lakes are an environmental treasure to both our economy and natural resources, protecting them is of the utmost importance.
"The transportation and infrastructure provisions within this package we passed today are really about three things: improving our nation's transportation and infrastructure, growing our economy, and creating jobs. As Michigan is most certainly aware of the importance this measure represents, we need this to repair our roads and bridges, and keep our commerce moving across the nation. Economic growth always follows the transportation investments a country provides.
"Lastly, this package includes a measure preventing student loan rates from doubling on July 1st and will assist our young people, our most precious national resource, in having greater opportunities for education and economic freedom. We undoubtedly understand how important these education loans are to so many students around our nation. Especially during these hard economic times, the cost of higher education may be too high for many hard working American families to afford without taking out loans. With the passage of this measure, Congress has passed legislation that will help our students with acquiring the knowledge and skills they seek to enter the workforce, and to be better able to afford the loans that will assist with making their education possible."
Preventing the spread of Asian carp -- Originally introduced as the Stop Invasive Species Act this past April, this provision requires the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) ahead of schedule. The study will develop solutions to keep Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from transferring between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. GLMRIS is currently scheduled to be completed in 2015. The bill requires the Corps to complete the study within 18 months and create a plan to hydrologically separate the bodies of water.
Transportation and Infrastructure -- The state of Michigan will receive an increase of in the rate of return of transportation dollars -- up to 95% from the previous 92% which is current law. The transportation provisions includes significant reforms to cut federal red tape and bureaucracy, consolidate and eliminate duplicative programs or programs which are not in the federal interest, and ensure that states have more flexibility to focus funding on their most critical needs. The measure will fund federal highway, transit and highway safety programs at current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2014 for states to plan and undertake major transportation improvements. The measure contains no earmarks and does not increase spending.
Student Loans - This package will prevent a scheduled July 1st interest rate hike on certain federal student loans. Under a 2007 statute, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans to undergraduate students was phased down from 6.8% to 3.4%, but interest rates are scheduled to return to previous levels on July 1st unless Congress acts.