Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune applauded committee passage of a highway bill that maintains South Dakota’s transportation funding level and includes significantly more funding than the House-passed version.

As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Thune is fighting to promote South Dakota transportation needs as the Senate prepares to take up a multi-year reauthorization of our nation’s highway program. Thune supported today’s bill, which includes roughly $1.465 billion for South Dakota’s road needs over the next 5 years, nearly $60 million more than the bill that passed in the House last week. The Senate bill maintains South Dakota’s funding as a percentage of overall federal transportation spending.

“South Dakota’s economy relies on a healthy and robust transportation system,” Thune said. “The bill we passed today recognizes South Dakota’s transportation needs. I’m glad we were able to maintain South Dakota’s transportation funding as the bill is prepared for debate on the Senate floor.”

The previous transportation bill, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), expired in September 2003 and has languished in both the House and Senate since then. The legislation approved in committee today would re-authorize TEA-21 over the next 5 years (2005-2009).

Under the bill that Thune played a role in crafting, South Dakota would see a $266 million increase over funding in TEA-21, a 24.38 percent increase. The bill passed in the House last week amounted to a $172 million increase for the state. The Senate is expected to act on the committee-approved bill in the next 3-4 weeks.

“We are making progress on passing a highway bill that meets South Dakota’s needs,” Thune said. “When the bill goes to the Senate, I will work hard to boost our funding even more.”

During today’s committee hearing, Thune successfully added two amendments to benefit South Dakota. One amendment would ensure that highway funding would not be used in ways unrelated to transportation. The second amendment would assist state departments of transportation acquiring property for transportation projects while still providing for an unbiased environmental review.

South Dakota Department of Transportation officials applauded Thune’s work to pass a highway bill.

“We appreciate Senator Thune’s efforts and time spent in developing a highway reauthorization bill that provides funding for South Dakota over the next 5 years,” said Leon Schochenmaier with the SD Department of Transportation. “Senator Thune has been instrumental in securing a substantial increase in formula funding for South Dakota. In fact, Senator Thune’s efforts as a member of the EPW Committee ensure that our state’s overall share of highway funding is locked-in over the coming years. Basically this means that South Dakota will continue to receive a 2-1 rate of return for every dollar of motor fuel tax that’s collected. While it is still up to the Senate to approve this measure and conference the bill with the recent House-passed version, we look forward to completion of this important piece of legislation.”