Sen. Johnson touts highway measureWhile praising bipartisan cooperation on a Senate version of a new highway bill, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., complained that House Republicans have introduced a bill so partisan it is irresponsible.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
While praising bipartisan cooperation on a Senate version of a new highway bill, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., complained that House Republicans have introduced a bill so partisan it is irresponsible.
“This major piece of legislation is moving in the Senate in bipartisan fashion,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “Republicans in the House are moving a transportation bill that is highly partisan.”
If Congress fails to pass a surface transportation bill by the end of March, the nation’s Highway Trust Fund will become insolvent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The trust fund is paid for with the federal 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline.
The House bill proposes to eliminate federal funding for public transit and funnel that money to roads and bridges.
Johnson authored the public transit section of the Senate bill in his role as chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. That part of the bill would increase funding to public transit systems in South Dakota by 26 percent to $2.4 million under a new formula that gives greater weight to land area in rural communities, according to Johnson.
Beyond public transit, the bill is needed to give the nation’s infrastructure a boost, Johnson said.
“In South Dakota, there are nearly 6,000 roads and bridges. Over 1,200 are structurally deficient,” he said.
“Nationwide, over 50 percent of our roads are not in good condition.”
The Senate bill seeks to maintain the overall current level of transportation spending in a $109 billion bill over two years, or $54.5 billion per year.
The House measure proposes spending $260 billion over five years, or $52 billion per year.
Johnson noted that Transportation Secretary Ray La-Hood, a Republican, called the House bill “the worst transportation bill I’ve seen during my 35 years of public service.” At the same time, both Johnson’s committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted unanimously to pass their portions of the bill.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee found a way to pay for the bill, he said.
“The Senate has demonstrated we can come together and invest in America’s transportation infrastructure,” Johnson said.
“It’s time for the House to act responsibly.”