Recently, Gov. Cal Rampton made several unjustified criticisms of Rep. Merrill Cook regarding the congressman's work on the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) bill (Deseret News, April 22, "Cook should have shunned pork-filled bill").

First, Rampton mischaracterizes the bill currently being considered by Congress as a transportation "appropriations" bill when, in fact, it is an authorization bill. This is an important distinction, because an authorization bill provides the legal authority for funds to be spent. An authorization does not necessarily guarantee that money will be appropriated; but, unless the authorization exists for Utah projects, we would be out of luck.Second, as the only member of the Utah congressional delegation who sits on a transportation authorizing committee, Merrill Cook has been working incessantly to make sure that projects crucial to Utah are included in the final reauthorization of ISTEA. Cook has been very successful in improving the formula by which highway funds are apportioned to states and in securing language that authorizes Olympic-related road projects.

There are some elements of the House ISTEA bill that Cook would have written differently had he been chairman of the committee. I personally do not agree with all the provisions in the House bill. But legislating is a process of consensus-building, as Gov. Rampton well knows.

It would be a disservice to all Utahns who are struggling to get anywhere along the Wasatch Front for Cook, a member of the relevant authorizing committee, to reject a good bill that clearly benefits Utah in hope of a perfect bill that, given competing regional interests, would never see the light of day.

As the senior member of the Utah congressional delegation, I can attest that Bob Bennett and I in the Senate, along with Merrill Cook as Utah's 2nd District representative and the other members of the delegation, are doing our very best to ensure sufficient and appropriate federal assistance to meet our state's transportation needs.

Orrin G. Hatch

U.S. senator