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Upton Praises Passage of Bipartisan Transportation Agreement

Package includes provisions to ensure funding for vital harbor maintenance, prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, and maintain current student loan interest rates

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Washington, DC, June 29, 2012 | comments
Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) today joined the House of Representatives in voting to pass a final House-Senate agreement of transportation legislation that supports jobs and the nation’s infrastructure.  Upton served as one of the House negotiators of the package, which among other things reauthorizes expiring federal highway and surface transportation programs through September 2014.  The bipartisan agreement passed the House by a vote of 373 to 52 and now awaits Senate approval before heading to the President.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to jobs, safety, and smaller government.  By eliminating bureaucratic red tape and focusing taxpayer dollars on high-priority projects, this agreement will support American jobs and infrastructure projects to improve the safety of our nation’s roads and bridges.  What’s more, it includes commonsense reforms to ensure that taxpayer dollars are wisely spent and that critical infrastructure projects are not needlessly delayed by the regulatory process.

“This package also includes a number of essential provisions to support our treasured Great Lakes and the local industries that depend upon them.  Keeping our commercial and recreational harbors open and operational is essential to local growth, infrastructure development, and job creation here in southwest Michigan.  This bill takes a step in the right direction to ensure that funding for vital harbor maintenance and dredging is used for that expressed purpose.  The livelihood of thousands of Michigan families and small businesses depend upon our local harbors and deserve the certainty of knowing that these gateways of opportunity will remain open.  Additionally, this package takes important steps to stop the voracious Asian carp from devastating our Great Lakes ecosystem, protecting the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity these waters support.

In addition to ensuring the continuation of critical highway and transportation infrastructure programs, the bicameral agreement includes a number of commonsense reforms to existing federal programs, including: the consolidation or elimination of certain duplicative programs; requiring faster project approval; and streamlining environmental review of the impacts of projects.  The package also includes the Stop Invasive Species Act – legislation that Upton has cosponsored – which requires an expedited Army Corps of Engineers study and plan to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.

Additionally, the agreement expresses the sense of Congress that the administration should require all revenues collected through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) be fully used for their intended purpose: maintaining our nation’s commercial and recreational harbors.  From emergency dredging to maintaining standard operations, keeping southwest Michigan harbors operational has been a top priority for Upton.  Upton is also strong supporter of separate legislation – the bipartisan Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) Act (H.R. 104) – which would require the administration to fully and properly use HMTF funds for harbor maintenance.

Among other provisions, the package would prevent interest rates on new Stafford student loans from increasing to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012.  Instead, interest rates for new loan borrowers will be maintained at the lower interest rate of 3.4 percent through June 2013.
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