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Good morning. It’s great to see so many familiar faces here in Washington, D.C. We work together in the state often, but I want to thank you for once again making the annual trip here.



And the truth is we need you here in Congress to keep the delegation informed and to keep the pressure up on Congress and the Administration. Our waterways are economic engines. Your communities rely on them for jobs and commerce. And we need to make sure the federal government is a strong partner with all of you. That’s why it’s so important that you’re here.



Before I talk about some of the issues, I want to congratulate Kristin on becoming your government relations director. She’s a great choice. She knows how to get things done in Congress. She’s earned my trust and respect, and when she says something’s important, we know it really is. Kristin follows Louise Bray - who I always enjoyed working with and who now advises Governor Gregoire on transportation policy.



And with Glenn Vanselow as your executive director - you’ve got a very effective team. Last week, I had two meetings that focused on transportation issues related to trade. One meeting was in Spokane and the other in Vancouver. I particularly want to express my appreciation to Larry Paulson for hosting the event at the Port of Vancouver.



Two obvious principles developed from these meetings. First, for our goods to compete successfully overseas, they must get to market in a low-cost and timely manner. Second, there are increasing challenges to getting our goods to market.



The Spokane meeting raised a number of issues related to rail transportation, including the lack of rail cars and federal funding for infrastructure improvements. Also, the need to dredge the Snake River came up at both the Spokane and Vancouver meetings. This fact nicely illustrates the importance of the Columbia and Snake river transportation system for the entire region. In Vancouver, we focused on container issues, but also discussed the maintenance of the locks on the river system, channel deepening and the Mouth of the Columbia jetties.



As I mentioned in Vancouver, it seems this country needs to have a much more vigorous dialogue about the infrastructure of this country -- which brings me to some of the issues you’re here to address.



TEA-21 is up for reauthorization and the Administration is threatening a veto for any bill that contains enough funding to make any real difference in our deteriorating surface transportation system. We have a Corps budget that once again leaves us limping along and trying to add funding for projects that were amazingly left out of the budget. Investment in our transportation system is one of the few guaranteed economic drivers we have available to us.



The initial construction jobs bring an immediate boost to our economy. The resulting improvements in the transportation system help our people and goods move more efficiently and compete better in the world market. But despite the obvious short- and long-term benefits of investment in transportation we have budget policies that create an uncertainty that affects us all.



Some things in the President’s budget just don’t make sense.



For example, the Administration’s budget has $15 million for Channel Deepening and yet has zero dollars for jetty repair work at the Mouth. The value of those additional three feet will be meaningless if the mouth is closed due to a breach in the jetties.



And the lack of consistent funding for our smaller, shallow draft ports leaves them and their customers guessing year to year whether they will be open for business. We simply must get budgets out of the Administration that make sense and make a commitment to the future of our transportation system.



I am once again ready to work with you on meeting the immediate needs of our ports and businesses in Washington state. This must be done. But I believe we need to all be working with our counterparts from around the country to bring greater focus and commitment to our transportation budgets. Again, thank you for coming back to D.C. It is wonderful to see all of you. I want to take a few questions.