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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 22, 1998

|----------------------------------------------------------------------| | | | AN HISTORIC INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE WHILE MAINTAINING FISCAL |

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|                             May 22, 1998                             |
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Today, President Clinton and Congress Agreed To An ISTEA Reauthorization Bill That Includes An Historic Investment in Infrastructure While Maintaining Fiscal Discipline and Protecting Critical Investments, Such As Education, the Environment, and Health Care. While providing an historic investment in our infrastructure, the agreement maintains President Clinton's priorities of reserving the surplus until Social Security is reformed and investing in critical areas such as education, the environment, and health care. In response to the concerns the Administration raised, Congress improved the bill and the agreement now represents a solid compromise that is consistent with President Clinton's core principles:

Strengthens Our Infrastructure. The agreement guarantees nearly $200 billion to continue rebuilding America's transportation system -- an approximately 30-percent increase over the 1991 ISTEA reauthorization. This agreement will help communities modernize and build the roads, bridges, railways, and buses that link the people of our great and vast country together, that keep our economy strong and vibrant.

Maintains Fiscal Discipline. The agreement cuts the increase in excess transportation funding in half -- reducing it by $17 billion from the extra spending levels that were included in the original Congressional bills -- even though those bills had passed the House and Senate by large majorities.

Preserves Surplus Until Social Security Is Reformed. Unlike the original Congressional bills, the compromise is fully paid for with real offsets. And because the agreement does not touch the surplus, it is fully consistent with the President's call to "Save Social Security First."

Protects Critical Investments in Our Future. Unlike the original Congressional bills, the transportation agreement does not squeeze other critical investments in our future, such as education, health care, research and development, and the environment, because it is not financed by lowering the discretionary caps.

This Highway-Transit Bill Agreement Also Reflects President Clinton's Priorities -- By Expanding Transit Funding, Protecting the Environment, Helping Move People from Welfare to Work, Helping Disadvantaged Businesses, Extending the Ethanol Tax Credit, and Strengthening Border Infrastructure.

Expands Transit Funding Within A Smaller Bill. While the agreement has less overall spending than the original Congressional bills, it increases the share of transit funding from 17 percent of total surface transportation spending to 20 percent of total spending by 2002.

Protects the Environment. The highway-transit agreement strengthens proven strategies to protect public health and the environment by increasing funding for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program 75 percent by FY2000.

Helps Move People from Welfare to Work. One of the biggest barriers facing people who move from welfare to work -- in cities and in rural areas -- is finding transportation to get to jobs, training programs and child care centers. To help those on welfare get to their jobs, the highway-transit agreement authorizes $900 million over the next six years for President Clinton's welfare-to-work transportation plan. Of the $150 million per year, $50 million is guaranteed in FY99, rising to the full $150 million per year guaranteed in FY2003.

Helps Disadvantaged Businesses. The highway-transit agreement provides opportunities to disadvantaged businesses by retaining the Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.

Extends the Ethanol Tax Credit. In order to provide incentives to use ethanol in gasoline and protect the environment, the highway-transit agreement extends the Ethanol Tax Credit through FY2007.

Strengthens Border Infrastructure. The highway-transit agreement authorizes the Administration's program to target resources to border crossings to improve traffic flow and reduce illicit trade. The agreement allows highway funding to be used for Customs and INS equipment that speeds border crossings.

While the Agreement Provides Funding For Increased Safety, It Does Not Include A National Drunk Driving Standard of .08 BAC. The agreement includes a number of measures to increase safety, including incentive grants to increase seat-belt use, new measures to target repeat drunk drivers and to ban open alcohol containers in cars, and a strong program to make highway-rail grade crossings safer. However, the President is disappointed that Congress refused to lower the national drunk driving standard to .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). The President will continue to work to make sure that .08 is the law in every state of the country.