TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS--Continued
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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President I would like to explain my vote today against this important legislation, the highway reauthorization bill. I want to explain that my vote was against the unfair treatment of my State, and not a 5-year reauthorization bill. I support consistent and adequate funding of our transportation infrastructure) but I do not support a bill that cuts Wisconsin's rate of return unfairly.
A safe and efficient transportation system is critically important to my State. In Wisconsin, the changing seasons require constant maintenance of our roads and bridges. In addition, we have an aging fleet of buses that are in dire need of replacement. A five-year reauthorization is necessary for sustained transportation planning; it will provide jobs, will ensure safer travel on our highways and roads, and will provide transit funding for millions of commuters. I have heard from the people of Wisconsin, and I know they support a 5-year authorization bill.
I share their sentiments on the need for an authorization bill. I also share their sentiments on the bill the Senate passed today. I have spoken to engineers, bus drivers, road builders and businesses throughout my state and the message is the same--don't support legislation that would drop Wisconsin's rate of return. My support for this legislation would undermine Wisconsin taxpayers who deserve better than 92 cents on the dollar. A vote in favor of this legislation would set a dangerous precedent for treating Wisconsin unfairly.
I recognize the arguments of my colleagues that the overall funding for Wisconsin will increase and I support the addition of $11.2 billion that the substitute amendment contains. The substitute amendment provides Wisconsin with an additional $147 million in highway funding over the five year life of the bill. These dollars are absolutely necessary in the State, and I urge the conferees to maintain the Senate level of funding.
What the substitute amendment does not do, however, is greatly change my State's rate of return. Over the life of the bill, Wisconsin will still drop from an average of $1.02 to an average of 96 cents on every dollar the taxpayers send to Washington. The so-called equity bonus program included in the bill is far from equitable. It includes exemptions based on random criteria; it is a formula stitched together to appease the highest number of Senators possible, not to give each State its fair rate of return.
I remain hopeful that Congress will pass a bill much different than the one the Senate votes on today. I hope that my colleagues will, in conference, repair the damage that is done to Wisconsin under the Senate bill. I hope the final bill gives Wisconsin its fair share. Given the great need for a 5 year authorization bill, I would like to support this legislation. Given its treatment of Wisconsin, I cannot. I hope that will be different when the Senate considers a final bill.