Fed Highway Bill Leaves V.I. In Lurch, Says Delegate Plaskett

Delegate Stacey Plaskett said in a statement Friday that proposed funding in the Republican-sponsored Federal Highway Transportation funding bill does little to address the territory’s needs and vowed to continue to push for proper funding for the Virgin Islands and other insular territories.

The bill is the Republican House leadership’s preliminary Transportation Bill, released Friday. It is the beginning of the budget process for the highway bill, which will ultimately have to be either approved by both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, or reconciled with whatever the Senate passes.

“As our office has expressed to the 31st Legislature, Governor Mapp and the people of the Virgin Islands, this bill is yet another example of the Republican-led Congress’ unwillingness to address the real needs of everyday Americans, and certainly the needs of the territories, like the Virgin Islands, whose economies have not recovered and require additional support,” Plaskett said in a statement.

Plaskett said that despite the efforts of Gov. Kenneth Mapp to meet and work collaboratively with the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee regarding Mapp’s request for an additional $75 million to be placed in the original bill, the proposed funding in the current bill does not satisfy the infrastructure needs of the Virgin Islands.

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“The $2 million increase in funding to the entire territories completely discounts the request of Governor Mapp and does nothing to move the needle in providing much needed and long overdue funding for infrastructure development and jobs in the territories,” Plaskett said.

Plaskett said she planned to continue to push the Republican majority and the committee to determine options for a more acceptable outcome for the Virgin Islands on the issue of transportation and infrastructure funding.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act is a multi-year reauthorization to fund improvements to the nation’s infrastructure and surface transportation programs. The proposed version of the bill provides a $2 million increase in transportation funding for the territories, bringing the total proposed allocation to $42 million. The Virgin Islands would receive 40 percent of the final sum.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is expected to consider the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill during a mark up hearing scheduled for Oct. 22.

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