Senator Lankford Statement on FAST Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today released the following statement after voting against the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act conference report. The bill passed by a vote of 83-16.
“The FAST Act transportation bill maintains many of the highway reforms from previous years and builds on those programs by beginning the transition to more state control of highway construction. The new block grant structure for the Surface Transportation Program is a positive step for local decision-making and efficiency. The highway bill, for the first time in over a decade, extends the program for five years, allowing advanced contracting and planning for major projects.
“Oklahoma will benefit from the included reforms of the migratory bird requirements, which will allow year-round bridge construction. The FAST Act also gets the federal government out of the business of deciding what signs rural Oklahomans can put up on the edge of town, like churches, service organizations or the FFA. One of the “Federal Fumbles” waste examples, that our team recently noted, was the Amtrak subsidy for passenger food; the FAST Act finally requires accountability in that program.
“Finally, significant reforms in the permitting process for national infrastructure projects was passed to streamline the extensive and unpredictable permitting process. Oklahoma should be proud of the good transportation policy negotiated by Senator Inhofe in the FAST Act.
“When the good transportation policy was connected to the finance portion of the bill, unfortunately, the bill did not meet basic budget standards. Most of the bill’s cost were not offset with realistic pay-fors. The Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserve was tapped to pay a portion of the cost, but the bill assumed oil would sell for nearly $95 a barrel, when the actual current value is closer to $42 a barrel. The bill moves billions of dollars from the Federal Reserve surplus, which typically goes toward debt reduction, but will now go toward highway costs. Most of the spending in the highway bill is in the first few years of its passage, but almost all of the pay-fors in the bill are nine or ten years away from now, which means most of the savings will never happen.
“Our nation needs a good highway construction and maintenance plan, but our nation also needs good budgeting and debt reduction. Unfortunately, the FAST Act does not do both.”