WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed several of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) priorities as part of legislation to fund America’s roads, bridges, and mass transit projects for five years. The bill also includes provisions that Brown pushed to include to renew the Export-Import Bank and provide targeted relief to community banks and credit unions.
Brown – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – voted in support of the bill. He is one of 13 Senators on the House-Senate Conference Committee that negotiated the legislation – the first long-term transportation measure since 2005.
“This five-year bill is the best option we have right now to keep America on top of the global economy and provide the infrastructure investment that Ohio needs,” Brown said. “It will make more funds available to improve Ohio’s highways, bolster our transit systems, and help finance major projects like the Brent Spence Bridge to create jobs, improve safety, and drive Ohio’s economic growth. Congress must continue to focus on the need to identify longer-term, robust investment in world-class infrastructure.”
Increased Funding for Ohio Roads, Bridge, and Transit
Under the bill, Ohio’s yearly share of federal funding for highway projects would increase by $200 million by 2020 and by $20 million for transit projects. Under current law, Ohio receives nearly $1.3 billion of federal highway aid each year. This bill would increase Ohio’s annual federal award to nearly $1.5 billion by Fiscal Year 2020. Funding for Ohio transit would increase by $20 million annually, to $195 million in 2020.
The bill, the first long-term extension since 2005, would ensure funding for roads, bridges, and mass transit projects for five years. Brown highlighted the bill’s provisions that would boost funding levels for major job-creating infrastructure projects like replacement of Ohio’s Brent Spence Bridge, as well as increasing funding for the state’s highway and transit programs. Current transportation funding is set to expire Dec. 4. The legislation would increase overall highway spending by 15 percent compared to current law and annual transit spending would grow 18 percent.
Ohio has the nation’s 4th largest interstate system with 6,700 lane miles and an estimated 109,000 Ohioans work in highway construction in the state. Out of 26,986 bridges in Ohio, 2,080 are structurally-deficient and 4,452 are functionally obsolete -- totaling 6,532 deficient bridges in need of repairs.
Click here to view the annual funding allocations for Ohio's highway programs under existing law and the new five-year transportation bill, which would provide funding for Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020.
Creation of New Program to Fund Major Projects Like Brent Spence Bridge
Brown successfully fought to include a provision that would create a new competitive grant program to fund major infrastructure projects, like the replacement of the Brent Spence. The Brent Spence project would be eligible to apply for funds from an $800 million per year pot of funding, which would grow to $1 billion annually in Fiscal Year 2020. The program is intended for large projects that when completed will reduce the impact of congestion, generate national and regional economic benefits, and facilitate the efficient movement of freight. Brown also championed a new competitive bus program in which Ohio transit agencies can compete for up to $340 million that will be distributed annually.
Export-Import Bank Renewal
Brown also helped to lead the effort to renew the Export-Import Bank for five more years, which is critical to helping Ohio companies create jobs and sell their products around the world. Since 2007, the Export-Import Bank has provided direct financial assistance to more than 350 Ohio businesses – including 226 small businesses – to support $3 billion of exports. The bank’s charter expired at the end of June.
“The Export-Import Bank is one of the best tools we have to help businesses of all sizes in Ohio and across our country grow, create jobs, and compete in the global economy. Renewing the Ex-Im Bank will ensure that American businesses aren’t put at a disadvantage to our foreign competitors,” Brown said.
Buy America Provisions
As a long-time supporter of Buy America, Brown pushed to include a provision that would increase the amount of American-made steel and other components that will go into buses and subway cars. The bill requires transit rolling stock (buses and rail cars) to include 70 percent domestic content, such as steel, by 2020, up from 60 percent under current law. Brown also proposed a provision in the bill to incentivize the use of American-made steel in foreign-made components.
Regulatory Relief for Community Banks and Credit Unions
The transportation bill includes a host of provisions that Brown and Banking Committee Democrats proposed earlier this year to provide targeted regulatory relief for the nation’s smallest financial institutions while protecting consumers.
“This bill provides the kind of targeted relief for community banks and credit unions that Democrats and Republicans agree is long overdue,” Brown said. “It will help America’s smallest financial institutions be more efficient, cut some of their administrative costs, and still protect consumers.”
A few of the key provisions would do the following:
- Boost the number of small banks that could be eligible for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation examinations on an 18-month cycle, instead of an annual cycle.
- Allow privately insured credit unions to be eligible for membership in the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) system and receive FHLB funding.