Baucus Secures Montana Priorities in Highway Bill Compromise
Senator Includes Support for Montana Forest Communities, Student Loan Relief, Help for Montana Levee Communities, in 2-Year Highway Jobs Package
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012
(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus announced last night that the bipartisan Highway Bill Conference Committee has reached a compromise to fund America's transportation programs through September 30, 2014 without adding a dime to federal deficits. In addition to supporting about 13,500 Montana highway jobs, Baucus also included provisions in the bill to support Montana forest communities, prevent a rate hike in student loans, and help Montana levee communities.
"This is a big win for Montana jobs because highways are our lifeblood. I worked hard to make sure Montana had a seat at the table and I'm proud that we were able to get the job done for Montana families," said Baucus, who led bipartisan negotiations on the Highway Bill Conference Committee.
Baucus is chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee responsible for writing much of the Highway Bill and chairman of the Finance Committee that came up with responsible ways to pay for the investment in highway jobs without adding to the deficit. The House and Senate are each expected to pass the package this week. The current Highway Bill extension expires Saturday, June 30.
• Baucus fought hard to ensue Montana maintains its current funding formula in the highway bill.
• In total, the bill will bring Montana nearly $400 million annually to support about 13,500 jobs.
• The bill supports projects on: roads, highways, bridges, bike/pedestrian paths, roads on federal lands and in parks, freight movements on the interstates and rural freight corridors, Indian Reservation Roads, bus transit, recreational trails and doubles the funding for road safety as a national priority, including an emphasis on rural roads.
• Baucus fought hard against passing another short-term extension and worked to produce the longer-term bill agreed on today because it provides the certainty communities need to plan construction projects and get workers on the job.
Supporting Montana forest Communities through Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
• Baucus secured the support of 82 Senators to include his SRS/PILT amendment in the Senate Highway Bill and he secured it again in the final compromise package.
• Together SRS and PILT brought nearly $50 million to Montana counties last year. The programs expired at the end of 2011, and without this extension, rural Montana would lose funding for schools, roads, search and rescue crews and other important county programs. (Read more Here)
Student Loan Relief
• As part of the overall Highway Bill compromise, Baucus secured a bipartisan agreement to extend the low interest rates through July 1, 2013, without adding to the deficit. Without this compromise Montana students would have paid an additional $975 in interest over the life of the loan.
• Without Congressional action the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans will double on July 1, 2012, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
• Approximately 24,000 Montana students will receive Stafford subsidized loans this year of an average $3,958. And nationwide nearly 7.5 million students will take out subsidized Stafford loans next year.
Help for Montana Levee Communities
• The Highway Bill package includes reauthorization of flood insurance, set to expire July 31, 2012. Working with Montana Senator Jon Tester, Baucus secured a change in the flood insurance package that will require the Army Corps of Engineers to change its inspection practice so it can certify Montana levees. Without levee certification, Montana homeowners in communities like Great Falls and Miles City are forced to pay incredibly expensive rates for flood insurance.
• Certifications used to be performed by the Corps. In many cases the Corps built the levee in question, inspected the levee for years, and now refuses to provide accreditation for the levee. Baucus and Tester have been fighting for a solution since the issue first arose in 2010 (Read more HERE).
• Approximately 7,100 households in Montana currently have flood insurance covering $1.3 billion in property. Since 1978, the National Flood Insurance Program has paid out over $9 million in flood losses to Montana policyholders.
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