July 2, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — Before the July 4th holiday, the Senate took several important steps in three important policy areas to move our nation forward. Our last action before the holiday was to pass a single bill that prevented a pending student-loan interest rate hike that would have made college less affordable for American students and their families; made important investments in our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure; and reauthorizes the flood insurance program that provides security to millions of Americans.
The first item, the student loan provisions, met a critical deadline. We averted a looming increase in student loan interest rates that would have taken effect July 1. That interest rate was scheduled to double, an increase that Americans already struggling to pay for higher education simply could not afford. Extending the current 3.4 percent interest rate for another year lifts a significant burden, financial and emotional, from students and their families who were looking to us for action.
We also approved a long-term reauthorization of our nation’s transportation programs that was long overdue.
Investing in transportation infrastructure creates jobs and improves our international competitiveness. We create more than 35,000 jobs for every $1 billion in federal funds we spend on transportation infrastructure. The bill will create or preserve an estimated 3 million jobs nationwide. In Michigan, the bill will provide more than $2 billion over the next two years for road projects, and another $261 million over the next two years for Michigan transit projects. Funding transportation infrastructure improvements at robust levels is one of the most obvious things we can do to help boost the U.S. economy.
Of special importance to the Great Lakes region, the bill included a provision directing the Corps of Engineers to accelerate its feasibility study of preventing the transfer of invasive of aquatic invasive species, such as the destructive Asian carp, between the basins of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. While the Corps is planning to produce an interim report at the end of 2013, this provision would require a full feasibility report that would also include a recommendation for implementing preventative measures. Accelerating this study will put us on a better track to protect our $7 billion Great Lakes fishery that supports thousands of jobs.
The conference agreement includes a provision regarding harbor maintenance that is based on an amendment to the Senate transportation bill. This is the first time we have addressed harbor maintenance in a transportation bill, and including this language will help elevate this important issue and strengthen momentum to use trust fund receipts for harbor maintenance.
On the third important issue, the bill will provide some much needed equity to Michigan and other states through a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Michigan residents have paid over six times more in premiums than they have received in payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program. We must correct this disparity, and the bill we passed takes some steps to do so in requiring premiums that reflect the true risk of flooding.
The conference report will end subsidies for “repetitive loss properties” that continue to be rebuilt in high risk areas. It will also end subsidized rates for vacation homes and businesses located in high risk areas, many of which have received subsidized rates for more than 30 years.
Congress doesn’t always work as quickly or effectively as we’d like, but on this legislation, we have acted to protect college students and their families from rising costs, made important investments in our transportation system, and continued protection from natural disasters in a way that is more fair to Michigan.