As a nation, we can't afford to abandon infrastructure improvements.
They are job creators, and they are necessary to our overall economic
growth. Thankfully the Senate recently passed a bipartisan bill that
will move us forward. With over 7,000 jobs in Maine on the line, it's
time for the House to act too.
As a longtime member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee, I know how critical it is to maintain and improve our
highways and bridges. It not only provides for increased safety, but it
also promotes productivity and boosts our nation's competitiveness in
the global marketplace.
But we have to do better than the status quo if we want to grow our economy and really move out of this recession.
That's why I joined with my colleagues on the House Transportation
and Infrastructure Committee to introduce the bipartisan Senate
transportation bill that recently passed by a vote of 74 to 22. We also
called on House leaders to abandon their partisan transportation bill
and bring the Senate bill up for immediate consideration.
The bill has a long title - the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the
21st Century (MAP-21) Act" (H.R. 14) - but a simple mission: to move our
nation forward and create desperately needed jobs. The bill maintains
investments for highways and public transportation, consolidates and
streamlines highway programs, strengthens safety, eliminates earmarks,
establishes a national freight program, institutes performance measures
and improves accountability for transportation infrastructure
investments. At a time when 50 percent of our nation's roads are in
disrepair and 70,000 bridges are structurally deficient, we can't afford
inaction on this issue.
Unlike the House bill, which slashes funding and eliminates over
500,000 jobs, MAP-21 continues current funding levels, sustaining
approximately 1.9 million American jobs. Under the Senate bill, states
will receive $3.8 billion more in highway construction funding than the
House bill over the course of the next two years.
This transportation legislation is by far the biggest jobs bill
Congress will consider this year. It has a significant impact on Maine
too - according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Transportation,
7,400 jobs in our state would be supported by the funding levels
contained in the bill.
But we must act soon. On March 31st, authorization for current
transportation program funding will expire. If allowed to expire,
transportation projects around the country will grind to a halt. We saw
what happened when the Federal Aviation Administration programs were
allowed to expire, and we can't let history repeat itself. Our economic
recovery can't afford another massive shutdown.
Unfortunately, as I write this, House leaders are not planning to
bring up the Senate-passed bill. Instead, they'll seek to move a 3 month
extension of current law, something that the Senate opposes. This would
be the 9th of these short-term extensions, which removes certainty from
transportation planning at a time our states can least afford it.
It is imperative that Congress gets a bill to the President as soon
as possible. As our economy shows some additional signs of recovery, we
can't pull the rug out from under it by ignoring our critical
Congressman Mike Michaud