WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, today welcomed Senate passage of a long-term extension of the Federal Highway Program. Through his leadership position on the EPW Committee, Senator Inhofe has made passage of an extension a top priority. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 68-29 and the bill now goes to the President for his signature.
"I am pleased that the Congress has finally passed a long-term extension of the Federal Highway Program," Senator Inhofe said. "After months of delay, due to politics as usual in Washington, Congress finally passed an extension that will ensure states receive the money they are owed and proved the long term certainty that is the lifeblood of state and local highway and bridge programs.
“In my state of Oklahoma, according to Gary Ridley, Oklahoma’s Transportation Secretary, the impact of the failure to pass a longer term extension before September 30th of last year has been severe. Oklahoma, like all states, has been on life support relying on federal funding measured in days rather than years, essentially killing their ability to let contracts as the country approaches the peak of the 2010 construction season. To make matters worse, the uncertainty and erratic fudging for states from 4 short term extensions has been accompanied by a $1 billion a month cut in funding from what they received in 2009. This means that Oklahoma, in a time when 9 ft pieces of concrete are falling off of a major interstate in Tulsa, has been losing $15 million a month in federal highway funds. This is just plain wrong.
“Further troubling, Congressional inaction came in the midst of a recession with construction unemployment approaching 30%, costing over 64,000 jobs in February alone. Worse, this should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Senator Boxer and I have been sounding the alarm on this one since last July. We tried on numerous occasions to pass a longer term extension. To that end, all of the Chairmen and Ranking members of the Committees involved in the transportation bill sent a bipartisan letter to Senator Reid last November, pointing out the problem we were facing, but unfortunately our requests were ignored.”
“With this long-term extension soon to be signed into law, we can now turn our attention to working together on a multi-year reauthorization of the Highway Program. As I have long said, transportation spending is one of our primary responsibilities as lawmakers here in Congress. I look forward to working closely with Republicans and Democrats in both Houses to produce a bill that is good for Oklahoma and the nation.”