Weekly Columns

Washington has a spending problem, and the Senate is reining it in as it returns to regular order by passing annual appropriations bills.

Following the process and crafting each bill in committee allows all senators to play an active role. By offering amendments and engaging in debate on the Senate floor, good bills are made better.  

We’ve made progress by passing multiple Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) appropriations bills this month. The first of which, the FY17 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, marked the earliest Senate approval of a stand-alone appropriations measure in more than 40 years, and we’re continuing that momentum.

The Senate recently passed the FY17 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill jointly with the FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

Congress has a basic responsibility to determine how we spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Debating and passing appropriations bills provides accountability and reduces wasteful spending. I’m pleased to support this regular order because it offers all Senators a voice to address concerns that are important to their constituents. 

During the THUD debate, I spoke on the Senate floor about a provision in the bill that I authored that enables Arkansas to designate a portion of Highway 67 from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge as “Future I-57.” This description is an important step to make Arkansas a better-connected state that is open for business. A key factor that developers consider when determining where to locate major investments, such as new factories, is the presence of an official interstate highway.

Arkansas has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make Highway 67 an interstate-quality road. Passage of the THUD bill brings our state one step closer to calling it what it is, Future Interstate 57. Community leaders along this stretch of road see the potential this designation will have on the region.

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp says this designation will “open a lot of doors.” Aldermen in his community recently voted to support the designation and resolutions of support for the I-57 designation have also been passed by the Newport Economic Development Commission as well as Chambers of Commerce in Bald Knob, Cabot, Jacksonville, Lawrence County, Newport, Sherwood and Searcy.

Other expressions of support have been received from communities throughout the central Arkansas and northeast Arkansas regions.

This road is naturally oriented to eventually connect with the existing I-57 in southeast Missouri. Currently I-57 extends from Chicago, Illinois to Sikeston, Missouri. The designation of Highway 67 from North Little Rock to Walnut Ridge as Future I-57 establishes in federal law that the region is on-track to officially add a direct interstate connection from the Little Rock region to Chicago as “Interstate 57.” Completing the interstate will take a number of years, but this helps move the project forward.

Cooperation and regular order in the Senate will help our country build a path of success for the future, and open more doors to projects important to Arkansas.