Stevens Criticizes Bush Administration
Over Proposed Transportation Budget
March 02, 2008
At Thursday's Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
hearing on the Fiscal Year 2009 Department of Transportation
budget, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) expressed his strong opposition
to the Bush Administration's proposed cuts to programs that impact
"I just feel that somehow or another people in your Department
now have lost sight of history, why some of these programs exist,"
Senator Stevens told Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.
The President's proposed budget would significantly decrease
funding for a variety of programs in the Department of Transportation,
including the Federal Aviation Administration's Essential Air
Service Program (EAS), the Small Shipyard Assistance Program,
and pipeline safety. EAS, alone, would be cut by $60 million.
"Now you tell me, you're
going to have to play God and tell me which villages get cut
off and don't get three flights a week?" said Senator Stevens.
"And that's everything. That's milk and sugar and flour.
Everything comes in by air. I'm from a small population state.
Our state has a small population, but it has enormous area. It's
the area that has the greatest hope for supplying resources we
need as a nation, and yet it seems to have been abandoned by
this bill that's before us now."
Senator Stevens was particularly troubled with the proposed budget
cuts in light of the Bush Administration's desire to see a significant
decrease in congressional earmarks.
"This budget has been slashed. Just slashed," said
Senator Stevens. "I don't really understand it. If you knew
the paradigm of no more earmarks, why did you cut these budgets
expecting us to put the money back? That is what's happened now
two or three years in a row, these bills. The budgets have been
cut and we've been forced to go and put the money back."
During a question-and-answer session with Secretary Peters, Senator
Stevens expressed concern about the lack of proper regulations
governing unaccompanied minors' air travel. Last year, a 15-year
old Juneau girl purchased a plane ticket without her parents'
consent and later boarded a flight, unaccompanied by an adult,
to meet with a man in the Lower 48 she had befriended online.
"She went down and bought a ticket, and got on a plane and
it was discovered she was gone," said Senator Stevens. "She
was a minor, an unaccompanied minor, and I've asked that something
be done within the system so we won't have to legislate on that.
It'd be a difficult thing to legislate on, but it's possible.
I just really think anyone that's concerned about their families
would worry about this happening, and young people are very capable
of going and buying a ticket and disappearing. I just don't
think that ought to be possible. We ought to at least have a
proof-of-age requirement to get on an airplane. Now, if you
don't do that, I am going to introduce a bill for that. I think
it has to be done."
Secretary Peters agreed with Senator Stevens and committed to
reach out to the airlines and travel agencies to create guidelines
for unaccompanied minors.
"I agree with your concern, and as a mother and a grandmother,
I also am very concerned, especially today with the availability
of the Internet for young unaccompanied minors to travel, perhaps,
without their parents' consent and knowledge," said Secretary
Peters. "Senator, let me commit to you today that we will
move forward with your request and see what kind of documentation
we can develop. We will work with you and your staff to determine
the most appropriate path forward," said Secretary Peters
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