The Obama Administration announced Friday that "it won’t allow infrastructure funds to sit idle as a result of stalled earmark projects at a time when hundreds of thousands of construction workers are looking for work."
"U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making $806,000 in unspent earmarks immediately available to Oregon for projects that will create jobs and help improve transportation across the state," the White House announcement said.
The funds for Oregon are included in a nationwide total of $473 million that is being turned back to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” Obama said. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
LaHood added, “We’re releasing these funds so Oregon can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work.”
President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks.
But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize the secretary to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects.
Effective Friday, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.
All states must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31.
“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, Oregon will be able to put these dollars to good use,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”
To ensure that this funding is quickly put to good use to improve our nation’s infrastructure, funds not obligated by the December 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in FY 2013 to states that met the deadline.