News Releases

Remarks by Senator Murray on the Senate Transportation Funding Bill

Jul 12 2001

Provides Funding for Highways, Air Travel, Pipeline Safety, the Coast Guard and Truck Safety

Today, Senator Murray, as Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, secured subcommittee and full committee approval for the budget she developed to fund our nation's transportation priorities. Today, as the subcommittee met to review the funding bill (a process known as "mark-up"), Murray made the following opening statement:

We meet this morning to mark-up the Transportation Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2002. I am very pleased to lay my chairman's mark before the Subcommittee.

A Bipartisan Process

This package has been carefully crafted with the regular input of Senator Shelby and his staff. The tradition of this Subcommittee has always been one of bipartisanship. The Chairman and Ranking Member have always worked hard to put together a package that all Members can support. As long as I continue to have the pleasure to serve as Chairman of the Subcommittee, I plan to continue in that tradition.

The bill before you totals $59.96 billion in total budgetary resources. That includes obligations released from the highway and airway trust funds as well as appropriations from the general fund. This funding level is considerably higher than the level requested by the President. There are four principle reasons why this bill exceeds the President's request.

Paying for Transportation Through Real Funding -- Not User Fees

First, the Administration's budget -- rather than requesting appropriated dollars for railroad safety and hazardous materials safety -- asks us to impose new user fees to fund these activities. The bill before you rejects that approach and provides the funds necessary for these critical safety functions.

More Funding for Highways Than President Bush Offers

Second, the bill increases funding for highways above the level requested by the President. Under the Administration's budget, the President launches two new initiatives at the expense of highway construction dollars to the states. They are the New Freedom Initiative for the disabled, and an investment in new truck safety inspection stations at the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill before you fully funds these two new initiatives. In fact, the bill adds $15 million to the level requested by the Administration for border truck safety activities.

However, in order to ensure that funding for these initiatives is not provided at the expense of highway construction funds in all 50 states, the bill increases funding for highways to a level to hold all states harmless. In fact, under the Committee bill, every state will receive more highway construction funding than they would receive either under the President's budget or under the levels assumed in TEA-21.

Third, the bill includes a number of small but important safety initiatives that were not included in the President's budget. These initiatives address critical safety deficiencies at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Office of Pipeline Safety.

Improving Air Travel

The bill provides additional funding to hire 221 more FAA inspectors. Following the ValuJet crash, the Committee has been increasing the inspection workforce every year in order get to the level of 3300 inspectors. That was the minimum level identified as necessary by the panel of experts convened following that crash. While the funds for these additional inspectors were not included in the President's budget this year, the bill before you provides them.

In the area of highway safety, the bill includes funds that were not requested to boost seat belt use. The Committee has also increased funding for the Office of Pipeline Safety.

Investing in Pipeline Safety

I became involved in this issue after a tragic liquid pipeline accident that claimed the lives of three young men in Bellingham, WA two years ago. The Committee includes funding beyond the levels requested by the Administration to a level that is $11 million more than the program received last year.

That office has the daunting task of protecting all Americans against the threat of our aging pipeline infrastructure. The bill fully funds the request for additional staffing for the community right to know initiative and the new integrity management program. The bill also adds money for OPS's research, development and testing programs.

Funding the Coast Guard

Finally, the funding in the bill is higher than the Administration's request due to my insistence that we address chronic staffing shortfalls at the Coast Guard's search and rescue stations. The bill provides the Coast Guard's operating budget with $45 million more than the Administration request in order to address these Search and Rescue deficiencies and fund the mandatory pay and benefit costs for our Coast Guard service members.

I want to thank Chairman Byrd and Senator Stevens for granting this Subcommittee an allocation to address all of these important concerns. We could not have done it without their help.

Ensuring the Safety of Mexican Trucks

As members are aware, the Transportation bill, as passed by the House of Representatives, includes none of the $88 million that the President requested to improve the truck safety inspection capacity at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House bill also includes a provision that prohibits the DOT from granting any Mexican trucking firm an operating certificate to begin the cross-border trucking activity that was anticipated by NAFTA.

The bill before you includes $103 million -- $15 million more than the level requested by the President -- for these border truck safety activities. Importantly, the bill also includes a provision that establishes several enhanced truck safety requirements that are intended to ensure that this new cross-border trucking activity does not pose a safety risk. In the interest of time, I will not go into each detail of the provision. It is explained in detail on page 85 of the Committee report.

This provision will substantially raise the safety standards that will have to be in place before cross-border trucking can be initiated. I believe that this is a far better approach than the one taken by the House bill which has now drawn a veto threat by the Administration.

I want to thank Senator Shelby for all of his input into this bill. I also want to thank his staff for the assistance they have lent us since our roles were reversed just a short few weeks ago. It is my desire and that of Senator Shelby that we not debate amendments here this morning. Rather, if members have some non-controversial amendments they would like to offer, I would ask that they bring them to our attention so that we can consider whether we can include them in a manager's package for the full Committee mark-up this afternoon.

The bill was then reported out of the subcommittee to the full Appropriations committee.