The House defeated a highway amendment that pitted the Northern Marianas and American Samoa against Guam and the Virgin Islands.
Washington, D.C. – The highway bill amendment by NMI Congressman Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan, co-sponsored by American Samoa’s Aumua Amata Radewagen, was an attempt to distribute territorial highway funds more equitably among the islands.
That, by using objective benchmarks like highway miles, population and traffic to allocate a limited pot of money—currently about 40-million dollars, divided 10-percent each for the NMI and American Samoa, 40-percent each for
Guam and the VI.
But the idea did not sit well with Guam’s Madeleine Bordallo, who’s office says it could lead to fewer highway dollars for Guam…and Virgin Islands Democrat Stacey Plaskett, who spoke on the amendment—
Plaskett says, “It is the limited funding within this bill, which has created an environment, where we are literally fighting over scraps.”
But the NMI’s Greg Sablan argues the current ‘fixed’ formula is 23-years old, and lacks a rational basis, linked to current island highway needs. Sablan says, “There should be some connection with the needs on the ground. I would like to make clear that this amendment does not slice up the pie to take money from one area and give it to another. In fact, thanks to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the pie’s actually getting a little larger.”
…maybe just 2-million more, above the existing 40-million dollar cap.
And American Samoa’s Aumua Amata Radewagen. She says, “I cannot say to my constituents, we just have to live with the way things have always been done. I want to say to them that the assistance we get from the federal government, is based on our real needs.”
But Transportation Chair Bill Shuster and Ranking Democrat Peter Defazio opposed the Sablan-Radewagen amendment. DeFazio wants to hear first from the local governments and argues the Department of Transportation did use rational measures when it first set the island highway formula in 1993.
The amendment died 113-310.