RE: The next transportation reauthorization is shaping up to be yet another big spending boondoggle. Despite four straight trillion dollar annual deficits, Congress refuses to accept the need to budget responsibly and prioritize transportation spending.
Instead, both the
House (H.R.7) and Senate (S.1813) are working on bills that will almost
certainly require yet another bailout of the Highway Trust Fund,
costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. It is unacceptable to
exceed Highway Trust Fund revenues by relying on budget gimmicks, fee
diversions and unknown future revenues. Any transportation bill passed
by Congress should focus on containing costs, reducing federal burdens
and turning transportation policy, planning and funding back to the
ISSUE IN BRIEF: The 2005 highway bill – dubbed SAFETEA-LU – was
larded with earmarks, dramatically increased spending and continued the
centralization of control. It was rightly seen as a symbol of how
Republicans in Washington had lost their way; and by 2006, many
Americans saw no discernable difference between Washington Republicans
and Washington Democrats. The current debate is an opportunity for
Congress to demonstrate to the American people that they heard the
message sent by the American people in 2010.
The facts on the Highway Trust Fund:
• According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The
financial estimates associated with [the 2005 transportation bill]
SAFETEA have proved to be overly optimistic. The highway account has
already required three transfers from the general fund totaling $29.7
billion…” A general fund bailout results in an increased burden on
taxpayers and an increase in our nation’s debt.
• The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is funded through various taxes, most
notably the federal gas tax, and is projected to take in an average of
$38.6 billion per year over the next five years, or $193.2 billion.
Any spending above that would require an additional revenue stream or a
general fund bailout.
• The CRS also notes, “Using any of these, however, would weaken the
claim that road users pay the cost of the federal highway program.”
Breaking this link would weaken the ability of small-government
conservatives to keep transportation spending in check.
• There is an estimated $15.6 billion of unspent funds the Highway
Trust Fund (HTF) that House and Senate drafters rely on to close their
funding gap. The use of those funds to offset massive spending should
be viewed as typical “Washington bookkeeping.”
No earmarks, but….
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