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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) took to the Senate floor today to call on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan, long-term extension of a critical transportation bill that will create jobs and invest in infrastructure projects critical to America’s safety and economy. Earlier this month the bill passed the Senate 74-22. 

Shaheen also hosted a press conference call today on the topic and was joined by Cliff Sinnott, Executive Director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, and Mark Charbonneau, President of Continental Paving. Both spoke about how New Hampshire projects and hiring are affected by the stalled bill.

Below are Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. President, I think we can all agree transportation is one of the federal government’s core responsibilities. 

It’s been far too long since Congress updated and reformed federal transportation programs. 

Every committee that worked on the Senate’s long-term transportation bill passed it on a strong, bipartisan vote.  And I was pleased to see that when the bill came to the floor, 74 Senators from both parties voted in favor of the transportation bill.  

Now I urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and produce a long-term, bipartisan bill. 

The Senate’s transportation bill is about strong bridges, good jobs, and dependable roads that businesses count on to move goods and reach customers. 

The Senate’s bill reauthorizes transportation programs for two years, maintains current funding levels, and does not increase gas taxes.  

Cutting funding at this time would be a dangerous choice. Emerging economies such as China and India are spending roughly 9 percent of their GDP per year on roads, bridges and public transportation. 

We’re spending 2 percent.  That’s half of what we were spending in the 1960s.  Cutting that even lower would leave our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. 

This bill is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit.  Most of the funding comes from the gas tax, as it always has.  To make up the gap, we came up with bipartisan ways, including stiffer penalties on tax delinquents and by shifting unused funds designated to clean up underground storage tanks. 

The Senate’s transportation bill is about making our investments more efficient, so we spend less on overhead and more on roads and bridges.  

This bipartisan bill streamlines the number of federal transportation programs from over 90 to just 30.  For the first time, it requires states to collect data, so that we can measure what kind of bang we’re getting for our buck.  

That’s why everyone from the AFL-CIO to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports this bill. 

They’ve come together to support a bill that’s truly bipartisan and would support 6,600 jobs in New Hampshire and nearly two million nationwide. 

Now, there have been many reports about the difficulties facing the House in finding an agreement on a transportation bill.  I think the Senate has provided a good model that maintains current funding levels and avoids an increase in both the deficit and gas taxes. 

We need the House to join the Senate and produce a reasonable, bipartisan transportation bill that can give local governments and businesses some certainty before the height of construction season.  

State and local transportation projects are budgeted and planned based on the idea that the federal government will provide a consistent level of long-term funding.  

When you’re planning a multimillion dollar project employing hundreds of people, it’s critical to know what your budget is going to be more than a couple of months in advance. 

If the House doesn’t pass a bipartisan long-term transportation bill, states and towns won’t have the certainty they need from Washington to plan their projects and improve their transportation systems. 

According to numerous studies, deteriorating infrastructure costs businesses more than a hundred billion dollars a year in lost productivity.  This is no time to stall programs that encourage economic growth and create the climate for businesses to succeed. 

In New Hampshire we’ve seen firsthand the real world consequences of uncertainty in federal transportation funding. 

The I-93 project would create jobs and spur economic development in our state. It has been underway for several years, but the pace of the project has lagged because we don’t have a highway bill. 

It has been impossible for businesses and developers along the I-93 corridor to predict the future of the project. At a time when the number of people working construction in New Hampshire is the lowest it’s been in a decade, that’s unacceptable. 

We know that highway projects like I-93 produce good jobs.  New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation has said that just one section of it, between exits 2 and 3, created 369 construction jobs. 

All around the country, there are projects just like I-93 that are stalled as we wait on the House to pass a bipartisan long-term transportation bill.  We need to come together and make the federal investments necessary to get these projects moving and get people back to work.

Investing in transportation creates jobs and creates the conditions for our small companies to succeed. It is, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, a core function of government. It should not be an issue for politics, or for partisanship. I urge Congress to work together to pass a transportation reauthorization bill.