Thank you, Chairman Warner and Ranking Member Blunt, for holding this subcommittee hearing today, and thanks to the witnesses for their testimony.
Maintaining the nation's infrastructure is absolutely vital to our country's economic prosperity, especially for states like South Dakota where trucks and trains help deliver critical agriculture products and natural resources from their source to the markets.
The timeliness of today's hearing is underscored by the American Society of Civil Engineers' recent report that gave our nation's infrastructure an overall grade of "D+." That is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, this great need is compounded with the declining revenue stream into the Highway Trust Fund, which is the backbone of the federal government's investment in transportation infrastructure and, as Secretary Mineta and Mr. Basso know, a significant component of the overall infrastructure funding for states.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, starting in fiscal year 2015, the Highway Trust fund will have insufficient resources to meet its obligations, and it will need an additional $15 billion in revenue in 2015 to maintain current spending levels plus inflation.
That is why it is important to consider new and innovative infrastructure funding mechanisms. In doing so, however, we must take into account the needs of the entire nation, including rural states like South Dakota, which have unique challenges. That being said, I have always viewed innovative financing as additive and not a replacement for the federal government's role in ensuring that our nation's transportation network is maintained and improved.
In other words, no money should be diverted from the Highway Trust Fund to help pay for novel funding mechanisms, as this could undermine the very nature of the user-financed structure that has been so important to our nation's overall transportation investments. The solutions will not be easy, but we must work together to find them.
So, thank you again Senator Warner and Senator Blunt for holding this hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.