Re-evaluating energy and infrastructure policies
By Mindy Long
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is one of the country’s most influential lawmakers when it comes to transportation legislation. He currently sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as well as the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He also sits on the Committees on Armed Services; Banking, Housing and Urban Development; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He has been serving in the Senate since 2004.
Q How can you guarantee the integrity of a national highway system and the movement of goods?
A The importance of the highway system cannot be understated. It is not only essential for the movement of goods and facilitation of commerce, but it also enhances Americans’ quality of life when they are able to travel freely. The price of gasoline and diesel is a major factor in this, and current policies in Washington, including the litany of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency and proposals such as cap and trade, would not only stifle our commerce, but would also negatively impact families.
Q How can the next surface transportation bill improve our nation’s energy security?
A The best thing we can do for energy security is to renew our focus on safely developing domestic sources of energy. This administration has cut off access to billions upon billions of barrels of domestic oil, but we can and should be safely developing those.
Q What methods of highway funding do you propose to ensure adequate support?
A The Highway Trust Fund is almost constantly facing shortfalls. That leads to uncertainty in trying to solve long-term infrastructure problems. Unfortunately the administration has tried to address the shortfalls through deficit spending, which I believe is the wrong approach. I introduced a bill last year to redirect money already in the federal budget to the trust fund so we could address those pressing needs first, and I’m continuing to work to ensure that the trust fund is treated like a priority instead of being treated as an afterthought. The broader problem is that this administration is encouraging policy that makes energy more costly, cripples the economy and thus decreases revenue. Tax revenue would increase if the business environment and regulatory environment weren’t so crippling.
Q What role will tolls play in highway funding?
A In my home state of Louisiana I have argued against implementing tolls on existing roads. I believe states should have the freedom to choose how best to fund their new programs, including when and where to involve the private sector.
Q What changes would you like to see in the highway bill that authorizes federal surface transportation programs for highways to ensure our transportation system will meet future needs?
A We need a program in place that doesn’t run out of money every year and doesn’t require inconsistent appropriations that jeopardize programs. The biggest issue for the highway bill is funding, and the state of the economy has everything to do with that. Many of the policies coming out of Washington now are absolutely crippling to the economy. One of the consequences of a weak economy is less revenue to pay for things like highway improvements. I would also like to see more of a focus on addressing drunk driving, distracted driving and guard rails to help enhance safety and protect families.
Q What are you doing to protect professional truckers from increases in their costs of doing business?
A I’m adamantly fighting cap and trade, which would increase the cost of energy on every American, particularly truckers. I’m working to fight the bureaucrats who think we should pass a massive 2,000-plus-page bill that regulates everything from how houses should be built to the amount of energy we should be allowed to use. I’m also opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to unilaterally grab such authority through the Clean Air Act now.
Q Rest area commercialization would change federal law so that states could sell food and fuel at rest areas, and it often goes hand in hand with public-private partnerships. That type of change would close many of the travel plazas that provide 90 percent of truck parking. What is your position on commercialization?
A Adequate access to travel plazas also has a major impact on safety as they provide space for weary truckers to rest. I appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention and will be studying it further.
Q You have called for the development of domestic sources of energy, including nuclear power. What would you like to see?
A One main thing we can do is to get the administration to start issuing permits for new nuclear power facilities. We are basically stuck waiting to move forward with the building of a new nuclear power plant, despite having a Secretary of Energy who says he supports it. We essentially have the exact opposite policy of China. China is increasing domestic production of energy and securing resources around the world to ensure their economic future. We are cutting off access to energy, which is the lifeblood of an economy.