Inhofe predicts transportation bill will fall short
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
6/01/11 at 8:20 AM
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, despite what another key player called a breakthrough on the next major transportation bill, predicted that effort will fall far short of a much-delayed six-year measure.
"It is going to end up a two-year bill," the Oklahoma Republican said, conceding he shares the disappointment that states and others will no doubt voice.
"We can't do it. The money is just not there."
To even get that scaled-down version through with the support of his fellow Republicans, Inhofe said he had to give in and make elimination of all earmarks part of the announcement issued last week by a group of key transportation players in the Senate.
Inhofe, who refuses to take a backseat to anyone when it comes to conservative principles, again blamed other Republicans for demagoguing the earmark issue and handing a huge victory to the Obama administration, which, he said, now will get to determine which projects get funded.
In Oklahoma, Inhofe said, state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley will help in deciding priorities and predicted those would track the projects he would want funded.
The two men have maintained a close working relationship for years.
Last week Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Inhofe, that panel's ranking member; and two other top players on transportation released what Boxer described as a major breakthrough on the next massive authorization measure.
In addition to eliminating all earmarks, the statement also covered consolidation of the numerous programs to focus resources on national goals, an enhanced freight program to improve the movement of goods and reforms to an existing program that provides loans and loan guarantees on projects.
Boxer, not as ready as Inhofe to concede a six-year bill is not possible, laid out a schedule that gets a bill, whatever its size, in front of the committee before the July Fourth holiday.
"We are ready to rock and roll," Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters.
She expressed hope that a six-year approach would authorize around $339 billion, when enhanced by the other reforms, and would come much closer to the total sought by the administration.
Inhofe expressed doubts about just how much the changes would end up boosting the final figure.
Differences also cropped up between the two on projects such as bike paths and walkways.
Boxer said all modes of transportation should be covered, while Inhofe made it clear the committee should keep its focus on projects such as bridges and highways.
"She was not speaking for me," he said.
Original Print Headline: Inhofe says roads bill will come up short
Jim Myers 202-484-1424
Jim Inhofe: The senator says he is disappointed, but the money isn't there for the six-year measure.