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BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: March 18, 2010
WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe on Wednesday hailed Senate passage of a bill to help small businesses and pump more money into road building, saying Oklahoma’s highway department has been on "life-support” waiting for a long-term transfusion of federal money.

The legislation, approved by a vote of 68-29, "will ensure states receive the money they are owed and provide the long-term certainty that is the lifeblood of state and local highway and bridge programs,” said Inhofe, R-Tulsa.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill today; he and other Democrats have pledged that the bill will be the first of a series of efforts to create jobs in this election year.

Besides dealing with highway funding issues, the legislation also offers payroll tax breaks to small businesses that hire the unemployed and $1,000 tax credits for each employee kept on for a year. It would also allow more generous tax treatment of new equipment purchases by small businesses.

The problem for state highway departments was created when the law dictating "surface” transportation policy expired in September, and Congress enacted short-term extensions under rules that triggered deep cuts in contracting authority.

Oklahoma’s Transportation Department effectively lost access to $15 million a month in contracting authority.


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