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President Clinton Signs ISTEA Legislation

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 9, 1998


Room 450
Old Executive Office Building

5:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Robin. You're a pretty hard act tofollow. (Laughter.) And thank you, Secretary Slater, for doing such agood job and for giving such a good sermon today. I thought he was goingto pass the plate. (Laughter.) Then I realized that you had already givenhim all the money, he didn't need to pass the plate. (Laughter.)

I, too, want to thank the members of Congress who are here.There are 40 or 41 here. But I would like to specifically acknowledge andthank Senator Lott, Senator Chafee, and Senator Baucus, Congressman Shusterand Congressman Oberstar, Senators Byrd, D'Amato and Sarbanes -- all theothers who are here who have worked for this. I thank you so much.

Thank you, Governor Schafer, for coming, and all the mayorswho are here from all over our great country. Governor Voinovich wanted tocome and be with us today, but he's back in Ohio with his mother who isill. And our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Forty-two years ago this month, President Eisenhower signedthe Federal Aid Highway Act into law. The bill was sponsored in the Senateby Albert Gore, Sr. It gave rise to the most efficient network of roads inthe history of this country, connecting millions of Americans to theeconomic mainstream, ushering in two decades of unparalleled growth.

In 1992, when I got on that bus and road across America, I wasstill the beneficiary of that far-sighted action over 40 years ago. But Ialso saw that the concrete foundations built in the Eisenhower era werecrumbling in some places, that more needed to be done in our cities, in ourrural areas, and in all places in between.

It was clear to me then that if America were to roll into the21st century at full speed we had to be willing once again to make historicand long-term investments in our roads, our bridges, our transportationsystems. We've worked hard to do that for five years with enormousbipartisan support in the Congress, even as we were cutting the deficit andreducing the size of the federal government to its smallest in 35 years.

Today, I am proud to sign this bill -- the TransportationEquity Act for the 21st Century. It meets the challenge of building thepathways of the future, while maintaining the fiscal discipline thatallowed us to achieve the first balanced budget in 29 years and anaccompanying very high rate of economic growth. The act will strengthenAmerica by modernizing and building roads, bridges, transit systems, andrailways to link our people and our country together, and to permit a freerflow of goods. It supports -- as you just saw -- hundreds of thousands ofjobs and a lot of good training.

The act will save lives by allowing us to develop advancedairbag technologies, to offer incentives for increased seatbelt use, tomake our roads safer, to get bad drivers and vehicles off the road. Theact will protect the environment. It expands recreational trails and bikepaths, promotes mass transit and helps communities to meet nationalstandards for healthy air. The act will expand opportunity. It offerstransportation assistance to enable more Americans to move from welfare towork. If you can't get to work, you can't go to work. It protects theDisadvantaged Business Enterprise Program so that minority and women ownedbusinesses have an opportunity to compete for transportation projects.

The act will allow us to reserve our budget surpluses until wehave saved Social Security for the 21st century. The bill is paid for lineby line and dime by dime, without squeezing other critical investments ineducation, health care, research and development and the environment.

I have to say that I am disappointed that the bill does not gofar enough to ensure a national standard of .08 blood alcohol standard inevery state. I'll continue to fight for it and I hope we can pass it,because I believe it will save hundreds of lives.

I also would note for the record that working with thesemembers of Congress we were successful in removing several extraneousenvironmental riders from the legislation. But I hope that that processcan be abandoned so that all environmental issues can be voted on in theclear light of day, up or down.

Let me finally say that now that we are honoring ourcommitment to build a 21st century transportation infrastructure, I hopethat the bipartisan support I have already seen for a 21st centuryeducation infrastructure will result in a broad bipartisan bill there aswell. For less than one-tenth of the cost of this bill and withoutspending a cent of the surplus, we can help to ensure that our childrenwill be able to learn in safe, modern, well-equipped schools. (Applause.)

Now, again, just look at this array of members of Congress whoare here from both parties and both Houses. This shows what we can do whenwe bring honorable differences and an honest determination to solve aproblem together in open and respectful dialogue with an absolutecommitment to getting to the end of the road. This kind of constructivebipartisan approach can do anything it sets its mind to do.

I talked to Senator Lott today and I want to thank him and, inhis absence, Senator Daschle, for the agreements which have been made todayto allow votes to proceed on the tobacco legislation. I thank you, sir.We have another chance to save a million lives, reduce youth smoking, andmake a massive contribution to the public health of America. The publicexpects us to work out our differences on this legislation and on otherimportant bills. The public expects us to act as parents, not politicians.The public really expects us to bring the kind of bipartisan spirit thatwas brought to bear on this transportation bill to all our important workhere.

And I must say again, the country owes a deep debt ofgratitude to the United States Congress for the way they have done thiswork. Thank you. (Applause.) And I would like to ask all the members ofCongress to come up here and gather around, and I'll sign the bill.

(The bill is signed.)

Thank you all very much. We're adjourned.

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