June 25, 2009
Norris Addresses Transportation Funding Issues in
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) returned from a whirlwind visit to Congress on behalf of the Council of State Governments yesterday. He traveled to rally support for federal action on transportation funding. The federal transportation trust fund, which finances the majority of
Tennessee’s transportation needs, will become insolvent in September.
“Gas tax revenues have plummeted,” says Norris. “We’re advised the federal fund needs in excess of $5 billion more just to get us to the end of the fiscal year.”
The Surface Transportation Act of 2009 was unveiled by Representative James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, last week. The bill went to markup yesterday (June 24) and could be voted on by the House by the end of July. The likelihood of Senate action this year is unclear.
Norris reported, “Our meetings with Department of Transportation officials and Senate staffers made clear that the White House does not want to act before the 2010 elections. Kicking that can down the road may cost an additional $13 billion just to shore up the trust fund.”
Norris serves as Chairman of the Council of State Governments’ Transportation Finance Committee and visited Washington at CSG’s request. Norris and state legislative leaders from other areas of the nation met with House and Senate Transportation officials including a visit to the office of Tennessee Congressman John L. Duncan.
“I’m glad the General Assembly didn’t authorize all the transportation bonds the governor asked for in next year’s budget. The federal funds we need to pay interest may not be there,” said Norris. Bredesen had requested authority for $350 million in bonded indebtedness this year at a cost of $35 million per year to be paid from federal funds.
“Our state and national security, and our economies and quality of life, demand a functional transportation network. We are in danger of losing that now, and we are working on strategies to warn our constituents of the consequences,” said Norris.
A member of the General Assembly since 2000 and a former chairman of the Senate’s Transportation and Safety Committee, Senator Norris represents the West Tennessee Counties of Dyer, Lauderdale, Tipton, and Shelby.