Cochran, Wicker want impasse over funds resolved

By Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal

Delayed passage of an unemployment benefits extension also has placed in limbo at least $10 million in construction for projects on or connected to the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, a parkway official confirmed Monday.
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., has held up the bill because he objects to funding extending unemployment benefits for one month without paying fo it, and his action has stalled highway construction funds nationwide.
Bunning’s objection forced the temporary laying off of about 2,000 federal Department of Transportation officials in Washington, and nationwide delayed implementation and planning of almost $1 billion in federally funded highway projects.
Some of his fellow Republicans disagreed, including Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
“This is an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided,” Wicker said in a statement released through a spokesperson.
“I support a quick fix to these problems and expect the Senate will come to an agreement to do so this week.”
Cochran said he hopes a long-term solution also can be achieved:
“I regret that we’ve reached this point, which will cause hardships for many people in Mississippi and across the country. I am hopeful the Congress will act soon to retroactively reinstate these expired provisions,” he said in a statement. “Failing to do so would be irresponsible to those who rely on unemployment benefits and to those whose livelihoods are linked to federal projects like improvements to the Natchez Trace.”
When funding authority expired at midnight Sunday, it temporarily halted construction projects, reimbursements to state governments, and highway safety programs.
Parkway Administrative Officer Dale Wilkerson said the funding suspension involving the Federal Highway Administration, a Natchez Trace partner, placing on hold a resurfacing project between Kosciusko and Ridgeland, and continuing work on a trail system near Ridgeland.
The projects total about $10 million, Wilkerson said.
Contact Joe Rutherford at (662) 678-1597 or joe.rutherford@djournal.com.