WASHINGTON -- Missouri Sen. Kit Bond is moving into a key chairmanship that will give him control over next year's multibillion dollar federal highway bill.
Bond said Thursday he will oversee the transportation subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next year, when Republicans take majority control of the Senate.
The subcommittee plays a starring role in writing the highway bill, a process that generally happens once every six years.
"I have a lot of friends back home who, along with me, wish I were able to write the highway bill," Bond said in an interview. "I think it's going to be a lot of work, but it's a great opportunity and a real challenge."
However, accepting the transportation job means that Bond must give up his opportunity to chair the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, a position he held from 1995 until Democrats took over the Senate last year. The Senate has rules governing the number of committees and subcommittees a senator may chair.
"We've gotten the majority of plans we had for small business done," Bond said. "I'll continue to be on the committee, and I'll continue to be a watchdog for small business."
Bond will remain chairman of the spending panel on housing and veterans' affairs that is part of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
'A question of numbers'
Missouri's fortunes improved dramatically under the last highway bill, a $203 billion measure that constituted the biggest public works program in history when it became law in 1998.
The measure boosted Missouri's share of federal gasoline taxes from around 80 cents on the dollar to between 90 cents and 95 cents on the dollar. Because of a complex formula for transportation aid, Missouri is among several "donor" states that have always paid more in gasoline taxes than the federal government has returned.
"I don't think we can fix it completely, but we're going to do our best to make it more equitable," Bond said Thursday. "There are a lot more donee states than there are donor states. It's a question of numbers. That's part of the fun of it -- and it's extremely important for Missouri for safety as well as for economic development."
The 1998 legislation also gave Missouri more than $616 million annually for roads and bridges, or $3.7 billion over the life of the bill.