This was a vote on a motion to table (kill) an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that would have prohibited federal funding from being used for certain transportation “enhancement projects,” including landscaping, scenic highway programs, transportation museums, and state welcome centers. This amendment was offered to legislation that would provide annual funding in fiscal year 2012 for Agriculture, Transportation, and Commerce Department programs.
McCain urged support for his amendment: “We know what the debt is--$14.8 trillion. We have to spend our money in a fiscally responsible manner and not on special interest projects. For example, the state of Tennessee has more than 3,800 deficient bridges. Because of this federal mandate [that states use transportation funding for “enhancement programs”], however, states are forced to spend valuable and limited transportation dollars on transportation enhancement projects such as the White Squirrel Sanctuary in Kenton, TN. Kenton, the home of the white squirrel, has spent $269,404 on the sanctuary. The funding for the White Squirrel Sanctuary was used for construction of walking trails, including brick crosswalks, a foot bridge, and trailhead parking within Kenton to provide for the safe observation of white squirrels. The Lincoln Highway, a 200-mile roadside museum in Pennsylvania, received $300,000 in enhancement funding to commemorate the historical roadway with several items along the 200-mile route. These funds were used for items such as signs, ``colorful vintage gas pumps painted by local artists,'' and this refurbished coffee pot pictured on this poster board. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania ranks first out of all states for deficient bridges. Yet it seems to be more important to furbish large roadside coffee pots.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) opposed McCain’s amendment: “This amendment Senator McCain has brought forward is opposed by not only the U.S. Conference of Mayors but the National Tour Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the Southeastern Tourism Society, and many others are growing on the list because they see not only the value for improving the road infrastructure, but they see the value of attracting quality of life that makes the property values better around these enhancements, the tourism that comes along with it, and the value of economic development….I can tell you, from putting my hat on from the real estate industry--I spent many years in the real estate industry--what people looked for is the quality of the environment around them. If you were on a strip-paved road or barely a paved road with a little drain or curb, it had a certain value. If you were on a road that had a nice pedestrian pathway, nice curb and gutter and landscaping, I guarantee you those property values were stronger and better. The local community benefited from that because it now had stronger property taxes because of the higher property value. The homeowner benefited because they had an investment that would maintain its value because of the quality of the infrastructure. The roads, water, sewer system, in this case, the enhancements were of high quality.”
The Senate tabled (killed) McCain’s amendment by a vote of 59-39. 49 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “yea.” 36 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate killed an amendment that would have prohibited federal transportation funding from being used for certain transportation “enhancement projects,” including landscaping, scenic highway program, transportation museums, and state welcome centers. Thus, federal funding for those transportation projects remained intact.