U.S. Sen. David Vitter today announced that the Highway Bill has been approved by the U.S. House and Senate conference committee and passed by both chambers. Vitter specifically has been instrumental in making sure the RESTORE Act was included in the final version of the bill. Vitter is the only Louisiana member on the Conference committee that has been tasked with finalizing the highway bill, and also worked to get a five year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program and language supporting the complete use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars for critical dredging projects included.
"The Restore act has been an absolute top priority while negotiating a deal on the highway bill," Vitter said. "This is a huge step toward vital, long-overdue coastal restoration work along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and our neighboring states. The RESTORE language will go a long way in addressing the impacts of the environmental and economic damage from last year's oil spill, and we think it's more than fair to have 80 percent of the fines for this event dedicated for restoration along the Gulf Coast."
U.S. Sen. David Vitter helped get the highway reauthorization passed through Committee in November 2011 and through the U.S. Senate in March 2012. Vitter, along with U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are the original co-sponsors of the bill.
Vitter is an original cosponsor of the RESTORE Act, which would ensure that at least 80 percent of the fines BP must pay under the Clean Water Act (CWA) would be set aside for Gulf Coast states rather than just going into a general fund. Vitter has long championed the five year reauthorization of the national flood insurance program and he is also a co-sponsor of the RAMP Act, which helps restore the revenue from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for maintenance and dredging.
Additionally, the actual transportation portions of the highway bill include measures that will benefit Louisiana directly. The state is expected to receive more than $680 million per year in federal highway dollars which is a 102.14% rate of return on the amount of gas tax Louisianians send the Federal government in a given year. States will also have more flexibility to spend state transportation dollars and build projects more efficiently through an expedited delivery process.
"As Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I recognized that the system for passing highway bills in the past was broken," Vitter stated. "We went in, made reforms -- including eliminating all earmarks -- and produced a much more efficient bill. I'm also very pleased to get Louisiana's rate of return on highway projects increased significantly. Prior to my service on the EPW Committee, Louisiana was only getting 90.5 cents back for every dollar of state taxpayer money that was sent to the federal government. Now we'll be getting $1.02 for every dollar. That is a huge jump."