January 22, 2004
On Feb. 2nd, the U.S. Senate will take up the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee's bill to reauthorize federal highway programs for the next six years, said Murkowski, who is a member of the committee. Debate on it is expected to take up to two weeks before the bill passes the Senate. However, before it becomes law, the Senate's version must be reconciled with one that the House of Representatives will take up later in the year.
"The committee's bill will give Alaska almost $700 million more to work with over the next six years," said Murkowski. "That's a 36 percent boost over the funding level Alaska received in the last authorization bill. Over the life of the Senate bill, our apportionment totals more than $2.6 billion."
The total amount spent by the federal government in a given state includes both the apportioned funds being announced today which pass through the State government -- and also money dedicated to a variety of specific federal programs. The latter will increase the actual amount spent in the state, according to Murkowski.
According to Murkowski, Alaska's "rate of return" - the amount of funding it receives compared to the amount of federal fuel tax paid by Alaskans - is the highest in the nation. In the last authorization cycle, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21 for short, returned $5.67 per dollar collected in Alaska. The new bill, called "SAFETEA" in the Senate for the "Safe Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, will increase that to almost $5.72.
"Thirty of the 50 states are "donors," meaning they get back less than a dollar for every dollar their citizens pay in gas taxes. Twenty others, including Alaska, are called "donees." The most difficult part of any highway bill is to balance the interests of donors and donees. I'm really pleased by Alaska's numbers, which show that other members of the committee understood and agreed that we needed an increase to allow us to better develop our critical infrastructure, " explained Murkowski.
In SAFETEA, Alaska is allocated an average of $443,151,387 per year, compared to the $326,827,381 per year it received under TEA-21. The actual annual amount will increase over the life of the bill. In the last year of TEA-21, the State received $320,784,383, according to the federal Department of Transportation. Under SAFETEA, Alaska would receive $385,971,546 in FY04, $417,869,999 in FY05, $431,694,187 in FY06, $437,544,221 in FY07, $461,273,391 in FY08, and $524,554,978 in FY09.
Alaska, with fewer residents and far fewer road miles than most states, receives approximately 1.17 percent of the federal spending that is currently apportioned among the states. That remains unchanged under the new bill., according to Murkowski.
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