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The Roads You Travel: New Bill Would Give Miss. More Federal Money

WASHINGTON, D.C.–If you think the roads and highways you travel aren’t in good enough shape, something happening in Washington, D.C. could help improve on that in Mississippi and across the county. It’s a new bill called the “Six-Year Highway Program Reauthorization”, and it passed its first big hurdle Thursday.

The bill would bump federal funding for transportation projects and construction from $466 million per year to $526 million per year by 2020, said a news release from Sen. Roger Wicker (R).

“This measure clears the way for important highway construction projects in Mississippi and across the country,” said Wicker.  “Our transportation infrastructure is a critical component of our economy. Investing in our nation’s transportation corridors is imperative to staying competitive in today’s global market. It also empowers state and local governments by providing them with certainty and stability to make long-term infrastructure improvements.”

As part of the bill, Wicker also added an amendment that would reauthorize the “Appalachian Regional Development Act.” The amendment authorizes funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) at 2012 spending levels of $110 million for the next four fiscal years. He worked with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to put the amendment in.

This part of the bill would help poor people in the state.

“ARC has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Americans living in the most impoverished areas of this country,” Wicker continued. “Since its inception, the poverty rate in Appalachia has dropped steadily. In fact, from 1970 to 2000, the region’s poverty decreased by 4.1 percent, while the national poverty rate decreased by only 1.3 percent.

“The agency recently proved its worth in the aftermath of the storms that ravaged our state last month by swiftly delivering aid to those affected. It is vital that Congress continues to fund this very important program.”

Mississippi has 24 counties within ARC’s province, and 16 of those counties are currently considered “distressed.”  This means that nearly 20 percent of Mississippi’s counties have poverty rates and unemployment rates that are twice as high as the national average. These counties have per capita market incomes that are 67 percent of the national average.

S. 2322 will now go to the full Senate for consideration, where it will be combined with measures from the Senate Committee on Finance; Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

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