I'm here to talk about the need to replenish the funds in the highway trust fund. And I have to tell you, Mr. President, you have visited our state, and you know that about a year ago a bridge just fell down in the middle of the Mississippi river, and I was thinking, as I listened to the senator from Oklahoma talk about the promises that we make to our children, the promises that we make to future generations, well, I figure the country of this people figure we've made a promise to them that we're going to have safe roads and we're going to have safe bridges.

And we need to keep up that promise to the 13 people who died that way when they plummeted into the Mississippi river. And we didn't keep the promise to hundreds of people that were injured in all those cars that went crashing down. An eight-lane highway in the middle of the Mississippi highway six blocks from my house. We didn't keep that promise. When you look at the history of this highway trust fund, this trust fund was raided once before, many years before I ever came to congress, by this exact amount of money, I believe. Something like $8 billion. It was raided of that money, and it was taken out of the trust fund because it had some money and put into the general fund.

And what we're doing today at the request of the administration, of the Bush Administration, is to take that money from the general fund and put it back into the highway trust fund, because we have a promise for public safety to the people of this country. Now, my colleagues have been talking about priorities. And I think that has been an issue of priorities.

I can tell you, I would like to pay for some of the things that are going on in this country when we see that deficit and I can tell you how I would do it, how I would pay for that deficit. I would start bringing our troops home from Iraq. That's $10 billion a month. And it's ironic that big because just today would had a hearing in the environment and public works committee about bridges and trying to keep them safe with congressman Oberstar and others.

One of the witnesses actually told us that it would be about $10 billion a year to start bringing up our bridges to safety over the next few years, and I thought, that is exactly the amount of money we're spending per month in Iraq. So that's one way we can get the money, if we really wanted to and if some of my friends on the other side of the aisle would have the will to want to pay for this important infrastructure investment. Another is to close some of the loopholes that have allowed people to store money in the Cayman Islands and hide money. Another is to post close capital gains. Another is to roll back some of the tax cuts on the very wealthiest, individuals over $200,000 a year. That would bring in something between $50 billion and $60 billion a year. So I don't have trouble trying to find the way to pay for this.

But we have been unable to try to get our friends to try to fix these. We have been unable to get them to pay for this. So we're left where we are right now. A request from the administration to pay for this from the general fund so we don't have contractors, people out of work who are supposed to be working on construction projects. And this means something to me because I see it every day. I can tell you, with the help of congress that bridge is going up, an it’s going to be opening on Monday. It is kind of ironic that here we're debating whether or not we're going to replenish our nation's highways when everyone is giving these big speeches about the need to invest on infrastructure on the anniversary of that bridge going up again, some people are actually saying that we should let this highway trust fund die on the vine and let these jobs die on the vine. Now, we know -- I’m going to give you some examples for bridges and what we learned today.

We learned today that fully one-quarter of America’s 600,000 bridges have aged so much that their ability to with a stand current traffic levels is simply inadequate. One of the things we've seen on our roads and bridges in the last few years is that we're seeing something of a boon in our world economy with this new energy economy we're seeing wind turbines being transported on our roads and rail. We're seeing biofuel, and we're seeing more wear and tear on our roads and on our rail. 

And as we move to this next century economics with the next century energy, with looking at more and more of our energy being produced from the workers and the farmers of this country, we can't be stuck in the last century's transportation system. Now, I’m not going to pretend that just replenishing the money into this highway trust fund is going to bring to us where we need to be with public transportation and where we truly need to go with infrastructure in this country to compete on the world stage. But at least it's going to stop the bleed so that we're going to be able to compete with the ongoing projects that we have right now, that we have going on right now. I'm glad the administration is finally supporting doing something about this. It's been sad that we've been blocked on the other side now three times to try to fund this important transit fund. As President Kennedy once said, "building a road or highway isn't pretty, but it's something that our economy needs to have."

And we see that in that bridge in Minnesota, but we see it over and over again in the rural areas, with the development of the wind parks and the development of solar and ethanol. Just to give a sense of what we're seeing in our state, Mr. President, for the first six months in 2007, equity million to production in the United States totaled nearly 3 billion gallons, 32% higher than the same period last year.

Of course we're going to be moving to cellulosic but that's still going to mean transplantation in our rural areas. Currently there are 128 ethanol plants nationwide with total annual production capacity nearing close to 7 billion gallons. An additional 85 plants are under construction. Total ethanol production is expected to exceed 13 billion gallons per year by early 2009. In terms of transportation, this means that an average square mile of land in southern Minnesota, which now generated the equivalent of 80 loaded semi trucks per year, could soon produce double that - 160 loads of grain per year.

So we're seeing more wear and tear on our roads. It is a good thing. We don't want all $600,000 a minute of it going to foreign oil. We want to be able to produce oil in this country. But that's going to mean having a transportation system that can keep up with our growing economy and the kind of truck freight and what we wants to see in this country. 

Every time I go by that bridge six blocks from my harks I always think about that school bus of those k kids that was perched precariously and didn't go into the water like the hundreds of other cars that did. Every kid on that bus was saved. They called it the miracle bus. We have a ph to those kids that this isn't going to happen again, that we're going to keep our roads and highways, that's the number-one goal of government in public safety.

And public safety means not just on our streets but safety in our streets and that means better roads, better bridges, and a better transportation system. So that is why, while we would like to have done it in a better way, would in a crisis situation with our transit fund and we should support it and we should replenish the fund. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.