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HIGHWAY TRUST FUND: Murray Delivers Speech on Proposed Short-Term Revenue Fix for the Highway Trust Fund

Jul 22 2014

Murray once again calls on her colleagues to avert a crisis in the Highway Trust Fund and to get to work on a long-term solution to step away from constant crises

Murray: “After four months of warning of this looming crisis, I am glad to come to the floor as we work to do what should be easy, but too often isn’t around here: avoid a completely unnecessary and damaging crisis.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, once again called on her Senate colleagues to avert the looming crisis in the Highway Trust Fund. In her speech, Murray emphasized the need for Congress to step away from lurching from crisis to crisis, like the debt-limit scares and the government shutdown of recent years, and instead, build on recent bipartisan progress to reach a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund, which helps fund critical construction projects on the nation’s roads and bridges.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“…After four months of warning of this looming crisis, I am glad to come to the floor as we work to do what should be easy, but too often isn’t around here: avoid a completely unnecessary and damaging crisis.”

“Since the bipartisan budget deal, we have been able to build on that bipartisan momentum in some really important ways. …That kind of bipartisan work to help workers and the economy wouldn’t be possible if we were still in constant-crisis mode. That is why I’ve been hopeful we could avoid lurching toward yet another needless crisis—this time in the Highway Trust Fund.”

“This bill will be a step in the right direction. But then we need to take the next step. We need to keep this bipartisanship going. And we need to work together toward a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue shortfall. That is the only way that we can truly put an end to constant crises and short-term patches. And it is the only way that we can give states and businesses the certainty they need and deserve to plan projects and invest in their economies.”

“I am glad that we are moving toward avoiding a completely unnecessary construction shutdown. I am glad House Republicans seem to understand that it is better for them—and for the country—to push the Tea Party aside and work with us—not push us to another crisis. And I am hopeful that we can build on this bipartisan effort, and keep working together to create jobs, economic growth, and a fair shot and true opportunity for families across the country.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. President.

“In April, I came here to the Senate floor to warn my colleagues of a looming crisis in the Highway Trust Fund.

“I told them if Congress didn’t act and the fund reached critically low levels, could cause a construction shutdown in communities across the country.

“That would cost jobs.

“It would threaten our fragile economic recovery.

“And it would hurt families and businesses that depend on safe and efficient roads and bridges.

“Mr. President, I had hoped we could address this issue sooner.

“I had hoped those of us in Congress who understand the importance of strong infrastructure investments could have come together not just to avoid a crisis—but on a long-term solution.

“We weren’t able to do that.

“But today, after four months of warning of this looming crisis, I am glad to come to the floor as we work to do what should be easy, but too often isn’t around here: avoid a completely unnecessary and damaging crisis.

“Mr. President, this is a step in the right direction—and as many of us here know very well, it is a step that Congress has not taken each time a crisis approached.

“For far too many years, Congress has been lurching from crisis to crisis, from debt limit scares to fiscal cliffs.

“This dysfunction hit a peak last October with the government shutdown over a misguided attempt to block the Affordable Care Act from covering millions of families—and with another federal default scare.

“The lurching from crisis to crisis, constant dysfunction, and uncertainty hurt workers and families.

“And it shook the confidence of people across the country who expect their elected officials to work together and get things done.

“But when the government shutdown finally ended last year, I sat down with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in a budget conference.

“We worked together. We compromised.

“And we reached a two-year budget deal that prevented another government shutdown, and rolled back devastating cuts from sequestration.

“Mr. President, that bipartisan budget deal moved us away from the constant crises.

“It showed the American people that we can do our jobs when we are willing to work together.

“And I believe it showed my Republican colleagues that putting the American people through constant artificial crises is not just bad for the country overall—it’s not good for Republicans either.

“Since the bipartisan budget deal, we have been able to build on that bipartisan momentum in some really important ways.

“I was proud to work with the Junior Senator from Georgia and a number of Democrats and Republicans on a bipartisan bill to invest in workforce training.

“Our legislation passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“And this week, it will officially become law.
“Mr. President, that kind of bipartisan work to help workers and the economy wouldn’t be possible if we were still in constant-crisis mode.

“That is why I’ve been hopeful we could avoid lurching toward yet another needless crisis—this time in the Highway Trust Fund.

“The consequences of Congress failing to shore up the Highway Trust Fund are clear.  

“In fact, many states have already been bracing for a worst-case scenario.

“Arkansas, for example, has already put the brakes on 15 highway projects that would have widened highways and repaired bridges.

“In Colorado, state officials are planning a project to ease congestion to give some much needed relief to drivers between Denver and Fort Collins.

“But a lapse in federal funding could have put that project on hold.

“Those aren’t isolated cases.

“Across the country, more than 100,000 projects would have been at risk next year.

“And 700,000 jobs would have been on the line if Congress failed to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, according to the Department of Transportation. 

“So I am glad Congress is finally coming together and working to avoid a construction shutdown this summer.

“Republicans in the House have pushed aside the Tea Party fringe and passed a bill to avoid a construction shutdown this summer – with no ransom demands—no programmatic spending cuts—and no Tea Party policy riders.

“Mr. President—I support the bipartisan Senate proposal from the Finance Committee that includes provisions to improve compliance with tax laws.

“And, I think my colleague, the Junior Senator from California is right that we need pressure on Republicans to come back before the end of this Congress to work with us toward a long-term solution.

“But I am very glad we are working together to get this done and avoid this unnecessary crisis that would have put jobs and our economy at risk.  

“Mr. President, this bill will be a step in the right direction. But then we need to take the next step.

“We need to keep this bipartisanship going.

“And we need to work together toward a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund’s revenue shortfall.

“That is the only way that we can truly put an end to constant crises and short-term patches.

“And it is the only way that we can give states and businesses the certainty they need and deserve to plan projects and invest in their economies.

“So, Mr. President, once again, I am glad that we are moving toward avoiding a completely unnecessary construction shutdown.

“I am glad House Republicans seem to understand that it is better for them—and for the country—to push the Tea Party aside and work with us—not push us to another crisis.

“And I am hopeful that we can build on this bipartisan effort, and keep working together to create jobs, economic growth, and a fair shot and true opportunity for families across the country.

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