Editorial: Restored: Senate OKs Trust Fund Transfer
By World's Editorial Writers
The U.S. Senate took quick action Wednesday, thank goodness, to put $8 billion into the federal Highway Trust Fund so that crucial transportation projects across the country would not be at risk for further delays.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a key member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, was among those whose efforts were instrumental in getting the transfer to the trust fund approved.
Without drastic action, the highway trust fund was about to run out of money sooner than expected, which would imperil the future of such critical projects as the Interstate 44 widening project in Tulsa. Many other Oklahoma projects also would have had to be delayed if the trust fund ran out of money.
Not surprisingly, an appeal to partisan politics was one reason the Senate took quick action. Inhofe warned that blocking the bill could cost fellow Sen. John McCain the presidential election in November.
One would hope that the importance of the projects would be enough to stimulate congressional action, but of course that's not the way things work up there. But get this: Apparently the highway funding bill was acceptable enough to win the support, albeit grudging, of Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a stalwart foe of earmarks and pork.
Here's how serious the situation was: Days ago, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission postponed $80 million in highway construction projects for at least a month because of funding uncertainties, and another $60 million was about to be on the chopping block.
But now, state transportation leaders are hoping to schedule a special meeting to restore activity on some of the projects earlier delayed. At least $46 million for the massive I-44 widening project could be on an October agenda for action.
The House is expected to take up the amended transfer bill soon.
There are legitimate issues about earmarking to be debated. Coburn is right that there are some provisions in the bill that probably are questionable. But as Inhofe noted, this was not the right time for such a stand. "Now is not the time to stall congressional legislation that restores the $8 billion,'' he said.
Sometimes an ideological stand can hurt more than help. At risk were more than 6,000 jobs in Oklahoma alone. There are always at least two sides to any debate.