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To the Max

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is retiring from the Senate. According to information released by the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), Baucus – first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978 – announced he is going to step down at the end of his current term in 2014.

Baucus has either chaired or served since 2001 as the ranking minority member on the Finance Committee, where he has been instrumental in securing dollars for the highway program. He is largely credited with developing the financing for MAP-21 and was a key player in averting potential funding shortfalls facing transportation infrastructure under SAFETEA-LU.

He also has chaired the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation Infrastructure, where he has played a significant role in crafting the last several highway bills. Baucus was one of the “Four Horsemen,” with Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and John Warner (R-Va.), responsible for shepherding passage of TEA-21 in 1998.

Baucus co-wrote the Bush-era tax cuts with Republican colleagues, as well as the Medicare prescription drug plan. He also played a pivotal role in writing President Obama’s health care plan, which more recently he described as a “train wreck” as it is being implemented.

Baucus and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have been engaged in discussions on comprehensive tax reform for several months. Camp is term-limited as chairman and with Baucus retiring, the two can turn to this as their capstone legislative achievement. Increases in the gas tax have historically occurred in the context of broader tax reform, so this development, along with Baucus’s proven commitment to highway funding, could prove to be extremely significant, NSSGA said.

I remember meeting Baucus at an NSSGA (well, it would have been National Stone Association then) fly-in early in my career

as a trade press editor. He struck me as knowledgeable and informed, and over the years, he has proven himself to be a

friend of the aggregates industry.

In a Congress full of misfits, he is one we will miss.

Mark S. Kuhar, editor

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Member: Construction Writers Association