Mr. LEVIN. It is my understanding that this agreement does not specify differently, and on that basis I do not object.
Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, this is an important moment for us, not just for us as legislators acting responsibly but for our States and for the working people of this country. We were perilously close to having a shortfall in the highway trust fund which would have resulted in slowing down contracts on repairing bridges, building highways, et cetera. Six times the Senate has brought up legislation to restore money to the highway trust fund and protect those jobs, but until now my Republican
friends on the other side of the aisle have put up roadblocks and filibustered us.
Today, at a hearing we held on the status of our bridges, the condition of our bridges, the Bush administration itself urged us to act. I was very grateful to Senator Inhofe for his work. Because we have been facing objections from Senators DeMint, Gregg, and others, we were unable to move forward. We are very grateful we have reached this moment so we may vote on this important legislation and solve the immediate crisis.
We all know what has been happening with the trust fund. First, $8 billion was borrowed from the trust fund in 1998. We need to restore those funds. That is what we are doing today. Beyond that, we have to figure out a way to finance highways and transit systems and repair bridges and the rest with a more secure source of funding. Senator Inhofe and I are working together on that, along with Senators Isakson, Baucus, and the rest of the members of the Environment and Public
Works Committee. We know our colleagues in the House are doing it as well. We are going to have to look at how we keep pace with the many billions of dollars needed for repair. We have to make sure we pay attention to our Nation's infrastructure if we care about a thriving economy, moving goods, moving people, all the rest. If we ignore this, it is to our detriment. We saw a bridge collapse in Minnesota. We were reminded of
that today at the hearing. All of us were appalled to see what that looks like. I know bridges in California, in Oklahoma, bridges all over the country are in need of repair. We can't play politics. That is why we have been on the Senate floor. We have sent letters, asked our friends to back off. If they want to make a statement about how to fund transit and highways, that is very appropriate as we write the new highway bill.
What is happening out there is, obviously, because of the horrible price of gas, which, thank goodness, has come down a little bit, people are turning away from driving or they are doubling up. They are switching to hybrid cars. Hopefully, soon we will see more opportunities for electric cars. As a result, however, the trust fund, which gets its funding from the gas tax, has been going down. That, coupled with the borrowing that we did in 1998 from the trust fund, has led us to this day.
I don't have much more of a statement except I want to thank certain people who weighed in to push us and my friends on the other side. I hope they were pushed by this to back off and say: Let's have a clean bill. Let's fix the problem. Then we will debate how we get a highway trust fund that is necessary for the needs of the country.
AAA was very helpful, as was the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the American Road and Transportation Builders Association; the American Highway Users Alliance; the American Trucking Association; the Associated General Contractors of America; the National Association of Counties; the National Association of Manufacturers; the National Governors Association; the National Conference of State Legislatures; Midwestern Governors'
Association; the Coalition of Northeastern Governors; the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Again, what we are doing is simply restoring the revenue that was shifted out of the trust fund 10 years ago when the balances were high. What we are doing is saying to many working people that we are not going to let them run the risk of being laid off, fired, having to come home and tell their family they can't work. We know that is a fact because each billion dollars of [Page: S8257]
Federal funding is estimated to support 34,000 jobs. If we didn't act on this
and that $8 billion was not restored, we would have lost 379,000 jobs all across America; in my own State, 32,000 jobs. This is not the time to play games. In August, we lost 84,000 jobs in America. Imagine if we had added another 379,000 lost jobs.
Today, through the wonders of communication I can say to State and local officials watching us have confidence that the flow of funds to build and operate transportation systems, to build highways and bridges, to make sure communities are insured, those funds are going to be there. Again, as we move behind this crisis, I do look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Senator Inhofe and I, Senators Baucus and Isakson, we call ourselves the
big four of the committee. We have met. Our staffs are meeting every day. We are meeting. We are coming up with principles, what is the fair way to fund infrastructure needs. These meetings have been very important. They are not ideological. They are only business. How do we take care of business? That means moving goods, people, keeping the country
going. I can't tell my colleagues how pleased I am that we can have the opportunity today to vote on a clean bill, simply restoring the $8 billion that was borrowed from this fund and sending a signal to the 300,000-plus people who would have lost their jobs, at least this is some bit of good news for them in what has been a very bleak economy.
I yield the floor and reserve the remainder of my time through the leader's office on our side.
AMENDMENT NO. 5427
(Purpose: To change the date of restoration.)
Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor this evening to talk about the emergency we are facing in the highway trust fund. The highway trust fund is the primary means of funding all of our highway construction and repair projects in every State in this Nation.
Last Friday, President Bush's Transportation Secretary, Mary Peters, acknowledged finally what we on this side have been warning about for months: that the highway account of our highway trust fund is broke.
We have been hearing denials of this crisis for some time, but the Bush administration has now finally taken a closer look at the real receipts that are coming in from the Federal gas tax and discovered their estimates have been off by some $3 billion just since May. Now they tell us they are preparing to default on their bills to our States.
Let me make it very clear to everyone how serious the impact could be. If we do not pass the bill that is before the Senate this evening, my Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee is going to be forced to slash money for Federal highway investments in every State across the country, and it is going to cost each of our States tens of millions of dollars in the next month alone.
Not only does this threaten the safety of our Nation's roads and bridges, it could also very easily mean tens of thousands of jobs lost, as the Federal Government defaults on the contracts in every State of our Union.
Now, this nightmare is going to become a reality just as the unemployment rate has reached the highest it has been in nearly 5 years. Our country lost 84,000 jobs in August alone--84,000 jobs--which came on top of job losses in July and June and, in fact, every month of this year.
We know people across this country are hurting. Many are wondering how they are going to be able to pay their bills as the weather now starts to get colder and they have to begin turning on their heat.
If we do not shore up this trust fund, we are going to be forced to halt ongoing highway projects dead in their tracks. That means thousands upon thousands of people who go to work every day in the construction industry in our Nation to build our highways and bridges are going to be told to go home and do not come back to work the next morning.
The urgency of this bill is very critical. We cannot delay it. I hope we can put aside the ideology and partisanship for the evening and everyone can work together for the good of the Nation on this critical issue because we literally cannot afford to wait any longer.
I want to explain the situation so my colleagues understand where we stand this evening. This coming Thursday--that is tomorrow--may be the last time the Federal Government will be able to reimburse 100 percent of their expenses. The Department of Transportation has told my Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee that on Thursday, September 18--that is a week from tomorrow--reimbursements could drop to as little as 64 percent of the funds that States are due. They simply have to
offer the States an IOU for the rest.
In my home State of Washington, 21 percent of the transportation budget is supported by the Federal gas tax. Local agencies spend between $15 million and $30 million per month
in Federal dollars. If the Federal Government has to cut back or cut off funds, Washington State will lose between $33 million and $54 million a month over the next 5 months.
That is only one State, one example in this country. In other States, the Federal Government's share is a lot bigger than in Washington State. In fact, at a hearing this morning, the Oklahoma Transportation Director, Gary Ridley, testified to the Senate about the impact it will have in his State. In answer to questions, he said, in Oklahoma, 85 percent of the State's construction program--85 percent--is paid for with Federal funds. He said the kind of crisis we are talking about will have a ``dramatic
effect'' on his State's ability to move forward on road construction.
He told us that in Oklahoma they just opened bids on $80 million in highway work, including a $40 million project to replace a bridge in Oklahoma City that has been identified as having numerous safety vulnerabilities. But Mr. Ridley testified this morning he has had to ask his State highway commission to hold off on those contracts. In fact, he said he might even have to stop all right-of-way acquisition and construction projects until we here in Congress find a solution to this trust fund
So this is a desperate situation in every State across the country. What is most disturbing to me is it is not as though we did not know this was coming. I have been sounding the alarm about the highway trust fund for almost 2 years. My Democratic colleagues and I have warned repeatedly that we face a looming disaster. We have proposed a solution that would enable these funds to stay solvent, so our States are whole, so our construction industry can continue during this construction season to
move forward on these critical safety transportation projects. We have made it clear that [Page: S8259]
without action this year, we would face a financial disaster, and that it was coming upon us very fast.
Well, the situation is so serious that after months of blocking our legislative solution, this administration, the Bush administration, did a 180 and is now asking us--in fact, telling us--we have to get a bill on the President's desk by the end of this week. So I am very hopeful this evening we can finally move this bill and provide a solution to our States.
What this bill does is replace $8 billion that was taken out of the highway trust fund back at the end of 1998. This is not a bailout from the general fund of the Treasury. That $8 billion was collected from our gas taxes for the purposes of being deposited into the highway trust fund.
Now, at the time, the trust fund was flush with money and people did not think we needed it. Well, clearly, we need it now. We are proposing to restore that $8 billion that was paid in gas tax receipts to the trust fund, and we are not asking for a penny more.
This is not new to anyone in this body. We have debated this proposal before. I and my ranking member on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Bond, included this proposed transfer in our Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. So it has been a bipartisan effort in our Senate Transportation Subcommittee.
In fact, Democrats also tried to pass this proposal back in June on the FAA bill. We included it in the tax extender package. We tried to pass it as part of the stimulus bill.
Well, we are back this evening. We have another chance. We are working on a bipartisan basis to move this critical bill forward, and I urge my colleagues again to get this done this evening because, as I said, we are going to start seeing severe consequences to this crisis if we do not act and work together on this now.
As I said, this Thursday--tomorrow--could be the last day that our States are fully reimbursed for construction work. So by this time next week, States may have to start doing without. The stakes could not be higher. Mr. President, 84,000 jobs were lost last month. We cannot afford to put another job at risk. But, importantly, these construction contracts are out there and we are in the middle of construction season. Our States need to know we stand by our word and this money is going to go out
to them in a timely fashion.
I thank my Democratic colleagues, as well as our Republican colleagues, who have been working with us this evening in a bipartisan way to finally move this bill forward and solve this crisis that is in front of us.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. GREGG. Mr. President, there is no question there is a serious problem out there relative to the financing of already let contracts in road construction and that it is unfair to those people who have had those contracts and those people who are working on those projects that they should be blindsided by the fiscal irresponsibility of the Congress. But it is also inappropriate to the taxpayers of the United States that we should correct this problem in a way which does even more egregious harm
to the future of this country by significantly expanding the deficit.
Just yesterday, we learned that the deficit of the United States has doubled under this Congress. It has gone from $163 billion to $407 billion. This is a huge increase in the deficit. What does the deficit mean? We are passing debt on to our children which they all have to pay for. Now we are going to, with this bill, add another $8 billion to that deficit--$8 billion. That is big money. Eight billion dollars would run the State of New Hampshire for at least 2 years, probably for 2 1/2 years,
so it is a lot of dollars. So this decision, the way it is being executed, the way we are approaching solving the problem of the highway trust fund running short of funds, although it needs to be done--we need to address the issue of let contracts. The way we are trying to correct the problem is the wrong way. We shouldn't be adding to the deficit to do this.
This is pretty much a self-inflicted wound, and it is really an intentionally self-inflicted wound. When the SAFETEA bill was passed, it was passed with the knowledge--the open knowledge, which was pointed out on this floor by a number of us--that the revenues in the highway trust fund, which would come from gas tax and which had always paid for highway construction, were not going to be enough to meet the largess of that bill. The avarice of our colleagues to spend money far outweighed the money
that was coming into the trust fund.
We knew that in the term of SAFETEA that this was going to happen, that the lines were going to cross and that the trust fund would be depleted. That depletion was accelerated, obviously, by the fact that energy prices went up and people, rightly and appropriately, started to aggressively conserve their use of gasoline, and that was good for the country and good for ourselves in dealing with this issue of gas prices. However, it had the effect of reducing the revenues into the trust fund. So
the day of reckoning, which was inevitable under the original SAFETEA bill, was accelerated and, according to the administration, occurred sort of out of the blue because 2 weeks ago they were saying they would have vetoed a bill such as this that added to the deficit, and now they are saying they support it. So they reversed their position on the basis of information they received in the last 2 weeks about the status of the trust fund.
Why was the original SAFETEA bill so out of whack? Well, it was out of whack because it included 6,000 earmarked special projects--some of which were listed by my colleague from South Carolina, Senator DeMint--which totaled $24 billion of spending, which we didn't have money to pay for, yet we put them on the books anyway. Then, a year ago or so, when we could have contracted those projects, we went by lapsing those projects which nobody wanted to pursue--$1 billion worth--we decided
not to. We decided instead to expand projects and add even more projects.
There has been a representation that this $8 billion raid on the general fund by the highway fund is just a repayment for a loan that occurred in the late 1990s, as it is represented--1998, I believe it was--when the highway trust fund allegedly transferred $8 billion to the general fund. Well, that is truly a straw dog argument because those monies never had any practical effect on Federal spending or the Federal deficit--that transfer, that event--but this event does. This is real dollars.
This event is a real $8 billion increase in the deficit. Somebody is going to have to pay for it, and the people who are going to have to pay for it basically are these young men and women right here who are serving us as pages. When they get out--they are juniors in high school, and when they get out of high school and go to college, which I am sure they all will, when they graduate they are going to start a job, and when they start that job they will find there is a big tax bill, and a large chunk of that tax
bill is going to be for debt we are running up here today. So 8, 10, 12, 15 years from now, when they are starting to make their living and trying to raise their children, trying to send their kids to college, trying to buy their first home, they are going to
be limited in what they can do. Why? Because they are going to have to pay a huge amount of taxes for costs which are being incurred right here today by adding to our deficit, and this is $8 billion of our costs that we are putting onto the next generation.
This is not the correct way to do it. There are ways to pay for this. There are ways to do this that do not involve that. The cleanest would be to simply borrow the money--not from the general fund but from the mass-transit accounts which have the money--and that was what the administration suggested. It was rejected by the House because the House didn't want to be responsible. Now we are in this tight timeframe, and it is claimed that we can't have any amendments here in the Senate. We simply
have to take care of this. Actually, there is some legitimacy to the tight time argument, but [Page: S8260]
it doesn't mean we shouldn't have any amendments to discuss this.
I proposed an amendment, Senator DeMint proposed an amendment, and Senator Coburn.
My amendment was to try to avoid this in the future by reinstituting rules around here which used to discipline our spending but which were, in the dark of night, eviscerated by those who wanted to spend a lot of money we don't have out of the highway trust fund. Two rules--one, that this should have a scoring event and should be subject to pay-go. How can a group of folks around here who carry a pay-go flag around as if it is the banner of fiscal responsibility say that pay-go shouldn't apply
to a transfer which is going to create an $8 billion deficit--an $8 billion add-on to the deficit? Inexcusable. That was part of my amendment, to make pay-go applicable here.
The second part was to reinstitute what is known as the Byrd Rule. Byrd developed language which said that as the trust fund--as it became apparent that the trust fund monies were not going to meet trust fund obligations, you reduce the obligations, and that was called the Byrd Rule. It was the responsible way to govern. You pay as you go. As money comes in, you spend the money. If you have a trust fund that funds a project, as that trust fund has money to pay for that project, you spend
the money to pay for that project. But when SAFETEA was passed, everybody knew that a lot more money was being promised than was going to come in, so a little game was played in the middle of the night: Let's put a knife into the Byrd Rule. Let's cut it in half. Let's eviscerate it. That is exactly what happened. So I am just suggesting that we reinstitute the Byrd Rule. It won't apply to this event, but at least prospectively it will. Fiscal responsibility--that is all I am asking for.
Unfortunately, it has been represented that we can't take up any amendments because we have to do this in a matter of hours or else these contracts can't go forward. Well, we could obviously have taken up the amendments. Clearly, we are going to spend 2 hours debating this. I only wanted 15 minutes to debate my amendment. It clearly could have been done in this 2-hour period. No, the issue was that we didn't want to take up any amendments that might make people have to take a hard vote. That
was the issue: a hard vote on fiscal responsibility, on the issue of putting pay-go back in place and putting the Byrd Rule back in. So, using the leverage of people being put out of work and contracts which had been let not being paid for, the other side has been able to successfully get around making those hard votes. I recognize the eccentricity of the situation, but it still doesn't look well, and it is not correct.
At some point, we are going to have to face up to this, you know. One generation should not do this to another generation. One generation should not constantly run up the debt on the next generation and take credit for the spending today which they are not willing to pay for. It is just not right. As a politician running for reelection, I shouldn't say: Oh, I got this project for my State, we are going to build this program right here, and then not be willing to say I was willing to pay for it
also; instead, say: Oh, well, as to paying for it, I am going to let my children and my grandchildren, my neighbors' children and my neighbors' grandchildren worry about that problem. I am just going to do the project and take credit for it.
So what we are doing here is totally inappropriate from a fiscal standpoint, but obviously the timing of this is such that we are not going to get these votes. I intend to return to this amendment. I will find someplace to stick it on, and then everybody will have to vote on this, hopefully, at some point in the future.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have listened to the debate today and the majority leader's remarks this morning, and I do appreciate the job my senior Senator has done in trying to secure funds for infrastructure through the trust fund. I intend to support passing this. Begrudgingly I will support it because I think it is the wrong way to do it. It is not wrong to put the additional money in there; it is wrong to not pay for it.
I can't help but note that the Senator from Washington stated that this is an emergency. Well, you haven't seen anything when you start talking about the emergencies we are getting ready to face. What about the emergency when, by law, Social Security benefits get cut, when we can't make Medicare trust fund payments? What emergency are we going to have? How is this going to compare to that? We are not allowed to do anything on this bill except debate.
I wonder what the American people would think, that we are going to spend an additional $8 billion that we don't have--whether it is owed to the trust fund or not, we don't have it--that we are going to collect that money but we are not going to pay for it out of some of the $300 billion-plus waste we now know exists every year in the Federal Government? Imagine if you applied that to your own situation. You have a family. You have an emergency, as the Senator from Washington said, but you know
that about 12 percent of everything you spend in your household is wasted. Are you going to go out and make a note at the bank and have your kids be responsible for paying for it or are you as a family going to get rid of some of the 11 percent or 12 percent of pure waste, pure
fraud that you have going on in your family budget? None of us in America are going to do that. We wouldn't do that to our kids. We wouldn't do that in our family budget. But that is exactly what we are doing here today. This is a small one. This is a small one we are facing.
We didn't have an amendment on the floor to say we will pay for this $8 billion by reducing the fraud in Medicare from $80 billion to $72 billion. There is $80 billion a year in fraud in Medicare. We weren't offered the opportunity to offer that amendment to get rid of the fraud in Medicare so we could afford to do this. It was just released 2 weeks ago that 31 percent of the payments Medicare makes are improper payments, with 80 percent of them overpayments. That is not included in the $80 billion
worth of fraud. There is not any opportunity for us to offer an amendment to offset that incompetence and clean that up so we can pay for this.
There are similar projects in Medicaid. The Social Security disability trust fund--the GAO tells us there is $2.5 billion a year in fraud in the Social Security disability trust fund. We didn't have an opportunity to offer an amendment to get rid of that fraud to help pay for some of this $8 billion shortfall.
The American people are going to be scratching their heads. We are going to borrow more, and we are not going to eliminate any of the other problems, any of the other excess, or any of the other waste or fraud, which came to over $382 billion this past year of American taxpayers' money that was unwisely spent.
We weren't given an opportunity to get rid of the performance bonuses at the Pentagon that are $8 billion that they pay every year to Pentagon contractors who do not meet the performance requirements of their contracts but they pay them anyway. There was no opportunity for us to offer that amendment, to be able to pay for this rather than charge it to our children.
There is $15 billion worth of excess costs associated with no-bid contracts at the Department of Homeland Security. There is no opportunity to offer an amendment to change the discipline in the contracting at Homeland Security, which we could have easily done and mandated to pay for this. There is no opportunity to do that.
There is $4 billion in wasted excess payments for crop insurance every year. We, in fact, passed a farm bill, but we didn't fix that.
That is $4 billion a year of hard-earned taxpayer money that goes out the window, which doesn't benefit anybody. Yet we are not given an opportunity to try to grab that to pay for this, and $10 billion is wasted a year, at a minimum, on IT contracts in the [Page: S8261]
Federal Government. There is no opportunity to offer to save that money to pay for the highways.
The American people have to be scratching their heads and saying: What are we doing? Why aren't we addressing the real issues? We need to build infrastructure, take care of our highways and bridges and our roads. That is what the trust fund is for. Why would we not pay for it when we have such a large amount of fraud, waste, and duplication in the Federal budget?
I could go on and on. There is mismanagement of U.N. contributions. We know at least $2 billion out of the $6 billion we send to U.N. is pure waste every year. There is no opportunity to offer that amendment against this. There is no opportunity whatsoever to say we are not going to send another penny to the U.N. until they show us how they are spending American taxpayers' money. The only government that is less efficient than ours is the U.N. The only one that obfuscates more of the numbers
than ours is the U.N. The only one with less transparency than ours is the U.N. There is no opportunity to do that.
We wanted to offer an amendment because part of the problem with the highway trust fund is that too much of the money doesn't go for bridges, roads, and highways. My senior Senator is committed to making sure we get back on that with the next Transportation bill. We have 242,000 bridges in disrepair in this country--242,000. This body rejected fixing that. Instead, we went on to build bike trails. Which do you think is more of a safety concern, building bike trails or building bridges?
I hope the American people are paying attention to what we are doing and that they become very dissatisfied with what we are doing. We have earned our 11-percent approval rating. How we are handling this bill today exactly fits the expectations of the American people--that Congress doesn't get it, that we are different, that we don't have to meet the expectations that every small business and every family does. We don't have to eliminate waste because it may be hard to do or we may have to take
a hard vote. We just fit the mold of their expectations. It is time for us to change that, not just for us but for the generations that follow.
I will state to you today that the estimates for next year's budget deficit are far under what it will actually be. We will be much closer to $1 trillion than we will be to $500 billion. Think about $1 trillion. That is $3,300 for every man, woman, and child we are going to spend next year that we don't have. We are not going to add it to the seniors because they are never going to pay it back. If you are born today, instead of owing $410,000, which you will ultimately be responsible for in terms
of unfunded liabilities, we are going to move you to about $500,000. None of our kids can afford that. We are stealing America away from our children. The process--not the goal; the goal is a worthy one--under which we are doing this is something that cannot continue if our Republic is to survive.
Of every republic in the history of the world that has failed, none of them failed because they were conquered from without. Every one of them failed on fiscal issues. We should wake up. We should start addressing the waste, fraud, abuse, and duplication in the Federal budget before we ask the next child or grandchild to take on debt for our benefit.
Like I said, I support that we are putting the $8 billion in there. What I don't support is the process under which we cannot eliminate other waste, fraud, and other duplication to be able to pay for it. We do a disservice to our country and to ourselves, and we do a disservice to the body of the Senate.
With that, I yield the floor.
Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I rise to discuss legislation vital to this Nation's transportation infrastructure. The highway trust fund, the means by which we fund our Nation's roads, highways, and bridges, is in trouble. Tomorrow, the U.S. Department of Transportation will slow down payments to States for infrastructure investments. That is highway projects. This is happening because forecasts now suggest that a shortfall of billions of dollars to the highway trust fund will occur in the near
The shortfall stems from the agreement of the 2005 highway bill negotiations, when the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress agreed to spend down the balance of the fund.
Last year, we learned the trust fund would run out of money faster than anticipated. Accordingly, the Finance Committee reported out a bill at that time to address the problem. We tried to move a $5 billion highway fix earlier this year as part of a larger FAA reauthorization bill, and that proposal was blocked. So we had to find other ways to pass this critical highway fix. In the meantime, the highway trust fund problem worsened. As gas prices rose dramatically, fuel tax receipts, which finance
the lion's share of the highway trust fund, dropped sharply. In short, as Americans drive less and purchase less fuel, the trust fund shortfall has worsened, even more so than we previously expected.
So we tried to pass the highway trust fund as a stand-alone bill. Recognizing the dramatically worsening state of the fund, we proposed an $8 billion fix--not $5 billion but up to $8 billion. In fact, the $8 billion fix matched the amount that was taken from the highway trust fund when its balance was deemed to be too large back in 1998.
We worked with the House in developing that measure, and the House sent it over to the Senate with a resounding vote of 387 to 87. We attempted to clear that bill through the Senate by unanimous consent on June 26, but the bill was blocked again.
Then before Congress recessed in August, I again attempted to move this $8 billion highway trust fund fix as part of the Jobs, Energy, Families, and Disaster Relief Act. But that measure also failed to pass.
Ensuring the highway trust fund remains solvent means my State of Montana will not have to suffer more than $98 million in funding cuts, as well as approximately 3,500 job losses in the next year.
Nationwide, the industry experts tell us the funding cuts to States would be at least $14 billion, with job losses approaching 400,000 if we fail to address this trust fund need. This will occur at a time when nationwide unemployment is at its highest level in 5 years.
In transferring $8 billion from the general fund into the highway trust fund, we will ensure delivery of the full $41.2 billion in guaranteed highway funding for fiscal year 2009.
It is important to remember the States have been relying on the 2005 agreement between the Bush administration and Congress when developing State budgets over the last several years. They relied on us.
Fixing the highway trust fund will preserve Federal funding for roads, highways, and bridges, and it will preserve good-paying jobs that rely on construction and maintenance projects.
An important point here, too, is no offset is required to fix the highway trust fund and that is because the $8 billion transferred is intergovernmental. The Congressional Budget Office indicates this fix does not constitute a spending outlay and, thus, would not violate the pay-go rules. Likewise, the Joint Committee on Taxation confirms this transfer will have no revenue effect.
I am pleased the Bush administration has finally come to its senses and realized the need to address this problem. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate across the aisle have removed their objections, and I am pleased we are now finally going to do what needed to be done for over a year.
I wish to note that the chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, the senior Senator from Washington, has joined me in doing everything she could do to get this problem fixed. She talked with me innumerable times and many Senators. She was very concerned about this situation and worked so hard. She deserves the lion's share of the credit for all the work she has done. I congratulate her for her staying efforts in that regard.
We should not delay any further. We should remember the old adage: There are no Democratic roads, there are no Republican roads, only American roads. We need to fix this trust fund now. Our States and constituents are relying on it.
Mr. President, I yield back the remainder of our time.