Floor and Committee Statements

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Prepared Statement
Hearing on the Safe Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (SAFETEA) and the Renewable Fuels Act
Environment and Public Works Committee

Thank you Chairman Inhofe. Today we have two very important pieces of legislation before us; the "Reliable Fuels Act" and the reauthorization of our nation's highways programs.

I would like to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for beginning the legislative process on vital fuels issues as the Senate moves towards consideration of comprehensive energy legislation which this nation desperately needs. I also want to voice my support for limited liability for MTBE production, distribution and use and say that I hope we can include such a provision as part of any energy legislation that this Senate passes. I want to thank you and Sen. Bond for your leadership and guidance on these issues, and thank your staff for their hard work in crafting these bills and getting us to where we are today. This morning though I will address my comments to the highways bill, and to two specific provisions contained in his bill, having to do with the issue of "rate of return" and "scope."

My State of Georgia, like the Chairman's State of Oklahoma and Sen. Bond's state of Missouri, is a "donor state". Simply put previous transportation bills have asked the hard working people of Georgia to send their money to Washington, only to see less money find its way back. Based on a five year average of TEA-21 including discretionary funds, Georgia ranks 50 th in the nation in our highway rate of return. We average a return of 86 cents on every dollar we send to Washington. I appreciate your willingness Chairman Inhofe and Sen. Bond to work with me to address this inequity and to ensure that Georgia receives its fair share of highway funds.

As some of you may know, prior to coming to the Senate I served in the House of Representatives and on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. When the Committee passed HR 3550 in the 108 th Congress, it did so with no increase to the 90.5% minimum return and it greatly reduced the scope of the guarantee to only include 84% of highway funds. I led a bipartisan effort to amend the bill on the floor to increase the scope provisions to TEA-21 authorized levels which, unfortunately failed. I am very pleased, however, that the bill before us today maintains scope at 92.5% of the projects, consistent with TEA-21 levels. I applaud Chairman Inhofe, Sen. Bond, and their staff for recognizing the importance of this issue and working to address it. I would also encourage members to oppose any amendments today that would reduce the scope or minimum guarantee to states.

Again, I commend you Mr. Chairman and thank your staff, and look forward to passing out these two important pieces of legislation.