Today, Congressman Mike Michaud, a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voted for the Conference Report on H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which included an extension of federal surface transportation programs through September 2014. The Conference Report also included provisions to prevent an increase in federal student loan interest rates scheduled to take effect July 1.
"Reauthorizing our transportation and infrastructure programs is fundamental to our economic recovery and competitiveness in Maine," said Michaud. "Although I support a five-year extension, this bill gives our states the certainty they need to proceed with infrastructure projects for the next twenty-seven months."
The Conference Report will maintain Maine's funding for transportation and infrastructure projects at $178.8 million for fiscal year 2013 and increase it to $180.3 million in fiscal year 2014. The bill also included provisions pushed for by Michaud, including language to close a loophole to Buy America standards; to incentivize the research and development of innovative bridge designs; and to improve the safety of high-risk rural roads.
"I am pleased that language supporting the University of Maine's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology and a provision preventing the outsourcing of our transportation projects were included in the final bill. I also applaud the inclusion of the student loan relief and the flood insurance reauthorization. The bill is not perfect, but that's the nature of a compromise. What's important is that Congress came to an agreement on a bill that will contribute to the nation's economic recovery, help make college more affordable, and put Mainers back to work."
Provisions in the bill will maintain the 3.4% interest rate on federal student loans and prevent it from doubling to 6.8% as it was scheduled to do so on July 1, 2012. Michaud cosponsored legislation to maintain the lowered interest rates and signed several letters urging House leadership to take action before the increase took effect. By extending the lowered interest rate, Maine borrowers are expected to save an average of $980 dollars over the life of their loans.
The Conference Report also reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. Michaud has strongly supported reauthorization of the NFIP to ensure that Mainers are able to purchase affordable insurance to protect their homes from flooding.