Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bill Returns More Highway Construction Funds to State

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bill Returns More Highway Construction Funds to State

Article excerpt

By Patrick Casey Associated Press Oklahoma's senators say the state will gain more than just increased federal highway funds now that the Senate has given its approval to a $123 billion, five-year transportation bill.

"Final passage of this bill is a big victory for Oklahoma," Sen.

David Boren, D-Okla., said Wednesday in a statement from Washington. "This legislation ends the subsidy that we have been paying to other states who receive more than their fair share of federal transportation funds."

Under the bill passed Wednesday, Oklahoma would receive 38 percent more money from the federal government for transportation construction and maintenance than in the previous five-year period.

Oklahoma and 17 other "donor states" also would no longer pay more into the Highway Trust Fund than they receive back.

"If the president signs this bill, every penny of every dollar that Oklahoma pays into the Highway Trust Fund will be returned to us, and the end result will be more Oklahoma jobs," Boren said.

The bill, supported by Boren and Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., was passed and sent to the House, 91-7.

"For too long Oklahoma has watched the federal government use state funds to build roads in other parts of the country," Nickles said in a statement from Washington. "The bill we passed today (Wednesday) gives `donor states' like Oklahoma a more equitable share of the trust fund pie."

Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Delmas Ford said Oklahoma has been sending some $240 million annually to the trust fund and getting back about $206 million.

The state should get back an additional $20 million to $30 million if the bill clears Congress, Ford said.

The action came after the Senate killed amendments by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., that had threatened to reopen the bitter fight over the distribution of $8.2 billion in compensation funds to states which feel they have been shortchanged in the past or who have given above average support to transportation improvements.

The hallmark of the measure is new flexibility for states and cities to tailor transportation networks according to their needs, by allowing them to shift their shares of the Highway Trust Fund to subways, buses, or commuter rail systems. …

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