House Passes Surface Transportation Bill and Student Loan Relief
Michaud Requests for Maine Included in Transportation Conference Report
Congressman Mike Michaud, a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voted for the Conference Report on H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which included an extension of federal surface transportation programs through September 2014. The Conference Report also included provisions to prevent an increase in federal student loan interest rates scheduled to take effect July 1.
"Reauthorizing our transportation and infrastructure programs is fundamental to our economic recovery and competitiveness in Maine," said Michaud. "Although I support a five-year extension, this bill gives our states the certainty they need to proceed with infrastructure projects for the next twenty-seven months."
The Conference Report will maintain Maine's funding for transportation and infrastructure projects at $178.8 million for fiscal year 2013 and increase it to $180.3 million in fiscal year 2014. The bill also included provisions pushed for by Michaud, including language to close a loophole to Buy America standards; to incentivize the research and development of innovative bridge designs; and to improve the safety of high-risk rural roads.
"I am pleased that language supporting the University of Maine's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology and a provision preventing the outsourcing of our transportation projects were included in the final bill. I also applaud the inclusion of the student loan relief and the flood insurance reauthorization. The bill is not perfect, but that's the nature of a compromise. What's important is that Congress came to an agreement on a bill that will contribute to the nation's economic recovery, help make college more affordable, and put Mainers back to work."
Provisions in the bill will maintain the 3.4% interest rate on federal student loans and prevent it from doubling to 6.8% as it was scheduled to do so on July 1, 2012. Michaud cosponsored legislation to maintain the lowered interest rates and signed several letters urging House leadership to take action before the increase took effect. By extending the lowered interest rate, Maine borrowers are expected to save an average of $980 dollars over the life of their loans.
The Conference Report also reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years. Michaud has strongly supported reauthorization of the NFIP to ensure that Mainers are able to purchase affordable insurance to protect their homes from flooding.
Michaud Supports Funding Bill for Housing and Transportation Programs
Secures funding for homeless veterans program
Congressman Mike Michaud voted in support of H.R. 5972, the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013, which contained many of his funding priorities. The bill passed the House 261 to 163.
H.R. 5972 provides funding for transportation and infrastructure, including the federal-aid highway programs reauthorized in the surface transportation bill. It included $3.34 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, an increase of nearly $400 million from FY12, and funded federal transit programs at FY12 levels.
"I am pleased that this bill includes an increase in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program and protects the federal-aid highway program, the Highway Trust Fund, and the Airport Improvement program from harmful cuts" said Michaud, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "These are smart federal investments that boost our competitiveness and create jobs."
The bill includes $2 billion of funding for homeless assistance grants, an increase of nearly $100 million over FY12. It also provided $75 million for the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, which provides housing assistance for homeless veterans. Michaud led a congressional effort to maintain funding for this critical program. According to a 2009 report, more than 16% of adults experiencing homelessness identified themselves as veterans.
"I am pleased that appropriators agreed with my request to maintain funding for the critical HUD-VASH program. Our veterans fought for our country, and we must fight for them when they come home," said Michaud. "In addition to providing them the very best health care and helping them find a job, we must ensure that all veterans have a roof over their heads."
Although most of Michaud's priorities were funded as requested, a few were not. The bill did not include funding for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, and it cut funding for the project-based Section 8 housing program by $1.2 billion.
"This was not a perfect bill, but it is a step in the right direction. I will work to improve the Section 8 funding levels and to include appropriations for the TIGER grants in the final bill that's sent to the President for his signature."