02/17/12 Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) Wednesday spoke on the Senate floor urging Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow Republicans the opportunity to offer amendments to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill, including one introduced by the Indiana senator that would give more equitable treatment to all states.

“Once again the Majority Leader is trying to block members from amending and improving legislation that greatly impacts our state,” said Coats. “For years, Indiana has drawn the short end of the stick when it comes to transportation funding. Despite Indiana’s strong record of fiscal management, we’ve long been a ‘donor’ state and sent more taxpayer dollars to Washington than we get in return for highway funding.  My amendment would ensure that Indiana and other donor states receive their fair share rather than continue to subsidize the needs of other states.”

The Coats amendment would allow Indiana to receive the same percentage of available highway funding as Hoosiers contribute to the gas tax. The current highway bill locks in the precedent that so-called “winner states” will continue to receive more than their fair share of highway funding while traditional “donor” states like Indiana will continue to receive a reduced share.

“The flawed funding formula in the highway bill actually rewards states that previously loaded up on earmarks by including this funding in the state’s historical average,” said Coats. “Indiana makes no apologies for being more self-reliant and fiscally responsible than other states.”

Indiana residents pay approximately 2.71 percent of the total federal gas tax. Under the current legislation, Indiana would receive only 2.35 percent of the total gas tax distribution – a difference that translates into nearly $300 million in additional highway funding. As proposed in the legislation, the funding formula would be based on a state’s historical average from Fiscal Years 2005-2009. If a state received fewer highway funds in past years, that state will continue to receive a reduced share. The Coats amendment would address this inequity by making sure states receive their fair share of the total distribution available in the Federal-Aid Highway Program.

In addition to Coats’ equitable rate of return amendment, the senator also introduced the following amendments to the highway bill:

  • Coats amendment (#1518): This amendment would give states more flexibility in transferring dollars from one program to another. This allows the states to make the most efficient decisions about how to spend their federal highway dollars.
  • Coats amendment (#1519): This amendment would limit the scope of eligible transportation enhancement projects so funding would be used for construction, replacement, or inspection rather than recreational trails, ferry boats, scenic byways and parking facilities.

Click here or on the image below to watch Senator Coats discuss this issue on the Senate floor.