MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press Writer WA S H I N GTO N
A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday proposed using bonds t o b o o s t t h e n a t i o n ' s infrastructure, saying their plan would provide $50 billion in additional federal transportation dollars. Under the legislation proposed by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., bonds would be spent on transportation projects around the country, including roads, b r i d ge s, ra i l ro a d s and waterways. Instead of interest, bond holders would receive tax credits. The two senators said the money would be in addition to money states receive from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for building and repairing roads and bridges through a national gas tax. S ome memb e r s h a v e proposed raising that tax in the wake of a deadly bridge collapse in Minnesota last month. But President Bush and some key lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., oppose the idea. Thune and Wyden said their idea is a less controversial way to repair crumbling roads and bridges. The bill "is about generating economic growth, improving transportation infrastructure, and ultimately saving lives through enhanced transportation safety without a tax increase," said Thune. Minnesota's two senators are also supporting the bill. "Although often overlooked, the bridge collapse in Minnesota demonstrated what can happen when infrastructure is not sustained," said Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. "This is a problem that cannot be ignored and I am proud to be a part of legislation that takes serious aim at it." Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, the president of the Na t i ona l As s o c i a t i on o f Manufacturers, spoke in support of the bill at a news conference Thursday. "It gets us started on a path that we've long needed to be on," Engler said.