News Releases

HIGHWAY TRUST FUND: Murray Delivers Speech on Avoiding a Construction Shutdown

Jul 08 2014

Murray: “Families can’t afford to have a few members of Congress putting jobs at risk once again. And with the clock winding down, we can’t afford to put this off any longer.”

(Washington, D.C.) –Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor on avoiding a construction shutdown in the Highway Trust Fund. In her speech, Murray described the impacts in Washington state and across the country if the trust fund reaches critically low levels next month, and called on Republicans to work with Democrats to avoid another unnecessary crisis.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:

“Like other states around the country, my home state of Washington relies on the Highway Trust Fund to pay for construction projects to ease traffic on our highways, repair bridges, and make safety improvements. This year, for example, officials in Washington state have planned to use money from the Highway Trust Fund to improve safety at railroad crossings in Centralia. They’ve planned to replace anchor cables on bridges in Seattle. And they’ve planned to re-pave roads across the state to fix potholes and to make roads smoother for drivers.”

“Officials in Washington state have said up to 43 highway projects could be threatened. And, across the country, more than 1,000 construction projects could be at risk, according to the Department of Transportation. M. President—if there is one thing that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on—and usually do—it’s that we should be investing in and improving our transportation infrastructure—not letting it crumble.”

“A construction shutdown would also threaten jobs and businesses. If states have to scale back their plans, companies will hire far fewer workers to repair and improve roads and bridges across the country.  Without a fix, nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk next year, according to the Department of Transportation.  And let’s remember: the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors after the economic downturn. And it still hasn’t fully bounced back yet…Allowing the Highway Trust Fund to dip to critically low levels would deliver another blow to the construction sector as it struggles to recover.”

“I am once again calling on Republicans to work with us in good faith to do the right thing and help us avoid a construction shutdown. I know Republican leaders, once again, are worried about their Tea Party fringe pushing them into another unnecessary crisis.  But I hope they are able to push them aside and work with us to get this done.  Republicans saw how devastating it was for them—and their constituents—when they hurt the country with the government shutdown.  And I am hopeful that gives them any additional incentive they may need to work with us this time.”

“State and local governments, workers, businesses, and drivers are looking to us to resolve this crisis and avoid another shutdown. States can’t afford important highway construction projects without the Highway Trust Fund. Families can’t afford to have a few members of Congress putting jobs at risk once again. And, with the clock winding down, we can’t afford to put this off any longer.  Let’s resolve this looming crisis, and prevent a construction shutdown this summer for our economy, businesses, and families all across the country.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s speech, as prepared:

“Mr. President, I also want to talk about another important issue Congress needs to act on – and that’s the looming crisis in the Highway Trust Fund. 

“Like other states around the country, my home state of Washington relies on the Highway Trust Fund to pay for construction projects to ease traffic on our highways, repair bridges, and make safety improvements. 

“This year, for example, officials in Washington state have planned to use money from the Highway Trust Fund to improve safety at railroad crossings in Centralia. They’ve planned to replace anchor cables on bridges in Seattle. And they’ve planned to re-pave roads across the state to fix potholes and to make roads smoother for drivers.

“But here in D.C., the Department of Transportation, and many of us in Congress, have been warning for months that the Highway Trust Fund needs more revenue to pay for these critical projects in my home state and those across the country.

“Without it, the trust fund will reach critically low levels next month.

“This is coming just a few months after Republicans pushed us into a government shutdown.

“And if Congress fails to act soon, families, businesses, and states would see another shutdown, this time with highway projects around the country.

“I had hoped that we would be able to get this done by now. The last thing the American people want to see right now is another countdown clock on the nightly news.  But we still have a chance to get this done before it’s too late.  

“Instead of lurching to yet another crisis, and putting construction projects at risk—let’s work together and do the right thing for families, workers, and the economy.

“Mr. President, the clock is ticking for Congress to find the much-needed revenue.

“Starting August 1, the Department of Transportation said it will start delaying payments to states for projects that ease traffic on clogged highways and make important repairs to bridges.

“On average, states will lose 28 percent of their federal funding.  Without that money, many states would have to delay or stop work at construction sites.

“Officials in Washington state have said up to 43 highway projects could be threatened.

“And, across the country, more than 1,000 construction projects could be at risk, according to the Department of Transportation.

“Mr. President—if there is one thing that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on—and usually do—it’s that we should be investing in and improving our transportation infrastructure—not letting it crumble.

“A construction shutdown would also threaten jobs and businesses.

“If states have to scale back their plans, companies will hire far fewer workers to repair and improve roads and bridges across the country.

“Without a fix, nearly 700,000 jobs would be at risk next year, according to the Department of Transportation.

“And let’s remember: the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors after the economic downturn. And it still hasn’t fully bounced back yet.

“In fact, weakness in the U.S. labor market is partly due to the lack of growth in the construction sector, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“Allowing the Highway Trust Fund to dip to critically low levels would deliver another blow to the construction sector as it struggles to recover.

“Mr. President, last fall, families and communities across the country were forced to endure a completely unnecessary government shutdown.

“The shutdown hurt workers. It threatened the fragile economic recovery. And it shook the confidence of the American people who expect their elected officials to come together and avoid such an unnecessary crisis.

“Mr. President, I was proud to work with Democrats and Republicans at the end of last year to pass a bipartisan budget deal that prevented another government shutdown, restored critical investments in families and the economy, and put a halt to the constant budget crises.

“And I was proud to build on that bipartisan momentum and work with my friend Senator Isakson and others on a workforce investment deal that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, and that we hope will pass the House tomorrow and get signed into law.

“We know this bipartisan work is possible. We know the country is better for it when it happens. We know it’s what the families we represent expect from us.

“So today, I am once again calling on Republicans to work with us in good faith to do the right thing and help us avoid a construction shutdown.

“I know Republican leaders, once again, are worried about their Tea Party fringe pushing them into another unnecessary crisis.

“But I hope they are able to push them aside and work with us to get this done.

“Republicans saw how devastating it was for them—and their constituents—when they hurt the country with the government shutdown.  And I am hopeful that gives them any additional incentive they may need to work with us this time.

“State and local governments, workers, businesses, and drivers are looking to us to resolve this crisis and avoid another shutdown.

“States can’t afford important highway construction projects without the Highway Trust Fund. Families can’t afford to have a few members of Congress putting jobs at risk once again. And, with the clock winding down, we can’t afford to put this off any longer.

“Let’s resolve this looming crisis, and prevent a construction shutdown this summer for our economy, businesses, and families all across the country.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”