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"Don't Shortchange Washington's Transportation & Jobs," Senator Murray Warns Transportation Secretary

Mar 09 2004

Murray fights Administration budget that threatens 38,000 Washington jobs, Amtrak rail service, air service to Moses Lake, and Washington’s transportation needs.

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) warned U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta that she will fight the President's transportation budget because it fails to meet the needs of Washington's families and economy.



Today Murray questioned Secretary Mineta at a hearing of the Senate's Transportation, Treasury and General Government Appropriations subcommittee. Murray is the highest-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. The hearing examined the Administration's transportation budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2005. The Administration's proposal is $45 billion below the funding level that the Senate approved just last month in the surface transportation reauthorization bill.



Murray said the Administration's $45 billion cut from the levels endorsed by a wide bipartisan majority of the Senate just last month will result in 38,000 fewer jobs in Washington state and will mean a loss of $807 million for Washington's transportation needs over the next six years.



"For me, this is about jobs, our economy and our productivity," Murray said. "I cannot and will not agree with these priorities, and I hope that my colleagues on this Subcommittee will also reject them."



On February 12, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a $318 billion, six-year transportation plan. But last week, Republicans in the Senate scaled back transportation funding for FY 2005 by $45 billion in their Budget Resolution, which is currently being debated on the Senate floor. That cut will block the creation of 2.1 million jobs nationally – including 38,000 in Washington state over the next six years.



Murray has led the fight in the Senate to increase transportation funding for Washington state. Last year (FY 2004), Murray secured a record $245 million for transportation projects throughout Washington in addition to more than $600 million in Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration grants to Washington state.



"If we make the right investments in transportation, we will create millions of jobs here at home, we'll make our businesses and workers more productive, and we'll lay the foundation for our future economic growth," Murray said.

In the hearing with Secretary Mineta, Murray also decried other cuts the President's budget makes to transportation priorities in Washington state and nationwide. The budget proposal would:

  • Force Amtrak into bankruptcy, threatening passenger service in Washington and across the country.
  • Force the communities of Ephrata and Moses Lake to come up with $336,139 to remain part of the Essential Air Service Program, which ensures affordable air service for rural communities.
  • Dramatically cut efforts to modernize our aging air traffic control system, which passengers rely on for safe air travel.




Senator Murray's opening statement follows:



"I'm pleased that Secretary Mineta can be with the Subcommittee this morning. He testified before the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee just a few days ago. I understand that during that hearing, the Secretary explained this budget reflects the President’s top priorities.



If this is true, then it's clear that the President places an extremely low priority on the needs of our nation's transportation system. At a time when congestion on our nation's highways is getting worse, and when our road, rail, airport and air traffic control infrastructure is deteriorating, the President's budget for the transportation department is effectively frozen.



While there are increases in some select programs, these increases are offset by deep cuts to our efforts to modernize our air traffic control system and to provide air service to rural America. And once again, the Administration is proposing a cut to Amtrak's budget that is so deep it will throw the railroad into bankruptcy if it is enacted.



I cannot and will not agree with these priorities, and I hope that my colleagues on this Subcommittee will also reject them. For me, this is about jobs, our economy and our productivity. If we make the right investments in transportation we will create millions of jobs here at home, we'll make our businesses and workers more productive, and we'll lay the foundation for our future economic growth.



The Senate has also recognized the importance of transportation for our economy. Less than one month ago, more than three-quarters of the United States Senate voted in favor of a surface transportation authorization bill that placed an appropriate priority on investment in America's mobility, America's productivity, and the creation of American jobs. That bill called for substantial growth in our federal highway, transit and safety programs. It financed these increases by closing tax loopholes.



The bill not only addressed America's broader needs to relieve congestion and improve aging infrastructure, it also addressed the unique needs of different regions of the country. For example, I was successful in including an amendment to triple the amount of funding available for our nation's ferry systems. Ferries are not a tourist attraction in my state. They are the way thousands of my constituents get to work each day. The Bush Administration greeted that surface transportation bill with a promise to veto it.



Yet, when an amendment was offered on the Senate Floor to reduce the size of the bill to a level that the President said he could accept -- that amendment received only twenty votes. That vote was less than four weeks ago, but my, how things have changed.



Today, the Senate is debating a Budget Resolution that was reported by the Budget Committee just last week and that actually cuts funding for highways and transit back to the level assumed in the President's budget. This Budget Resolution will allow for $45 billion less in funding over the next six years for highways and transit than the levels the Senate endorsed just last month. That $45 billion reduction translates into more than 2.1 million jobs that will not be created as a result of the President's budget policy and this Budget Resolution. For Washington state, that is a cut of roughly $807.8 million. That corresponds to a loss of more than 38,000 jobs in Washington state over six years.



The President's cut will have a significant impact on every state. I hope my colleagues will reflect on that fact before they vote to pass this Budget Resolution. This budget negates every statement that we made a month ago about the importance of highway construction, new transit systems, congestion mitigation and job creation.



Mr. Chairman, this is hardly the first time that an Administration has threatened to veto a highway bill because it is too large. In fact, veto threats have been issued against each of the last 3 highway bills over the last 18 years. But this may be the first time that a Congress has started to show signs of giving-in to objections from the Executive Branch. We need to pass a six-year surface transportation bill that invests in America and America's workers in a meaningful way. We should not succumb to the view that investment in a mission to Mars is more important than investments in our own country and our own people.



No one made this point better than Norman Y. Mineta when he implored his colleagues to ignore the veto threat of the Administration of George Herbert Walker Bush and pass the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Chairman Mineta said:

"this legislation comes at a time when it is desperately needed--both in terms of our infrastructure, and for our Nation's economic health. At a time when the White House continues to deny the effects of the economic recession, we have before us legislation that will create two million jobs over the next 6 years. And while the people of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue haven't seen or felt the effects of the recession, Mr. Speaker, you have only to ask the people of Bethlehem, PA, if there is a recession. Or the people of Chicago. Or the people of Lafayette, LA. Or the people of San Jose, CA. They will tell you that our economy is hurting. They will tell you that America needs this legislation, and we need it now. Mr. Speaker, this legislation will improve how Americans get from here to there, as well as the air we breathe, our quality of life, and the future of our economy. Mr. Speaker, America deserves nothing less."

Secretary Mineta, these words are as pertinent and on target today as they were when you delivered them on the Floor of the House on November 26, 1991. America does deserve nothing less. We should send the highway and transit bill that the Senate passed last month to the President's desk. I believe that, if he listens to his Transportation Secretary, he will sign it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman."