Monday, July 02, 2012
Pearce & Moore: Two Views On Transportation Bill
Contact: Jason Heffley
House Passes Compromise Highway Bill
Includes Pearce Language to Help Residents Affected by Wildfires
Washington, DC (June 29, 2012)—Congressman Steve Pearce released the following statement after a bipartisan House majority approved a two-year Transportation Reauthorization bill:
“Today’s vote represents measurable progress towards creating jobs. The American people have asked for compromise in Washington and today both conservatives and liberals came together to pass a meaningful jobs bill. While I believe conservatives were on the shorter end of the compromise, I supported the bill which includes several important reforms and provisions for New Mexico.”
The Surface Transportation Extension Act did include HR 6017, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Congressman Steve Pearce, which waives the 30-day waiting period for new flood insurance policies for residents in areas affected by wildfires on federal lands.
“I’m very glad to see that the language of HR 6017 will be included in the final version of the Surface Transportation Extension Act. Removing the 30-day waiting period for those who live in areas recently devastated by wildfires gives them a sense of security that their homes and livelihoods will be protected when the inevitable monsoon floods come later this summer. The people of New Mexico and the West in general know this situation all too well. This measure will ensure that they have a shot at protecting themselves from future disasters.”
“The work we did with Senator Bingaman’s staff in such a short period of time sets an example of what we can do for New Mexico when Members of Congress put aside their party difference, and decide to work in their constituents’ interests. I look forward to finding other bipartisan solutions to the issues facing our country.”
The Surface Transportation Extension Act also includes reforms giving the states some stability in planning for transportation projects, with a 2 year reauthorization; greater streamlining of environmental reviews for proposed transportation projects, primarily relating to the NEPA process; dropping $1.4 billion for Land & Water Conservation Fund; extending PILT and SRS funding for one year; and extending the current 3.4% interest rate for federally subsidized, undergraduate student loans.
Unfortunately, the compromise did not include Keystone language, coal-ash reform or the longer term 5-year extension the House was seeking. It did not contain the expanded oil & gas measures included in original House passed version. Finally, it doesn’t address the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and some of the offsets they use come directly from fund transfers.
The Road to Fiscal Hell
By STEPHEN MOORE
Congress is expected to approve as early as today a $120 billion highway bill that compromises nearly every budget principle Republicans say they believe in. It's a bipartisan budget heist with billions of dollars of budget gimmicks that are likely to infuriate Tea Party activists and other fiscal conservative voters.
In order to avoid confrontation with the Senate and to get the highway pork rolling by July 1, House Republicans caved to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on nearly every demand. Republican reformers in the House had originally sought to give more power and flexibility to the states on road projects, repeal onerous environmental rules that inflate the cost of federal construction projects, and curtail funding for wasteful urban transit projects. They also wanted the Keystone XL pipeline built and a shortfall in road funding to be covered by royalties from increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Virtually none of these provisions survived.
Without the drilling money the bill elevates fiscal accounting hocus pocus to new heights. For example, it pays for 27 months of road funding with 10 years of budget savings and revenue measures. Isn't that exactly the trick ObamaCare used for financing and that Republicans denounced? As Marc Scribner, transportation expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes, "this just makes the funding problem even worse two years from now when a new highway bill has to be passed. It's just a bunch of phony pay fors."
Highway bills are supposed to be financed with gas tax money, but because Congress wanted to spend so much more than is collected and didn't want to cut spending or raise the gas tax, Mr. Scribner calculates that the bill is a $20 billion raid on the general fund (which is $1.2 trillion in deficit) to pay for the spending programs. This makes the deficit worse. The bill "saves" some $3 billion by raiding various non-transportation trust funds with unspent dollars. It spends about $8 billion on obsolete transit projects (less than three percent of trips are taken on mass transit), thanks to an unholy alliance between big city Democrats and suburban Republicans.
Worst of all is the $9 billion pension gimmick. The bill "saves" $9 billion by reducing the required corporate contributions to pension funds. This will raise income-tax revenues for the government because pension contributions are tax deductible. So businesses will have fewer tax deductions under this scam and pay more tax. But the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation estimates these corporate pensions are $26 billion underfunded already. They should be contributing more, not less to the fund. And guess who is on the hook for underfunded pensions? Taxpayers.
Oh and did I fail to mention the spending bill also extends the low interest rate on student loans, again with no reforms to bloated and unaccountable universities? The evidence is clear that more subsidies through federal aid only increase tuition. This provision adds $6 billion to federal spending.
Polls are showing that many voters don't think it matters which party wins Congress or the White House in 2012. It's bipartisan spending raids like this that convince voters that there ain't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties.