President mum about his tax increase
By Terri Hall, San Antonio Transportation Policy Examiner
February 2, 2012
When President Barack Obama referred to his infrastructure plan in the State of the Union speech, he conveniently left out his plans to dramatically increase Americans' taxes on driving through toll roads and public private partnerships (P3s).
Here’s what he said:
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.
The speech went on for more than an hour, and three paragraphs is all the President had to say about infrastructure, and yet the U.S. House of Representatives is taking up its version of the Federal Highway bill this week. So there is much ado in Congress about our nation’s highways, and little acknowledgment or solutions posed to address the chronic underfunding by Congress other than levying toll taxes. Obama and his Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood have made tolling and P3s the centerpiece of the President’s transportation agenda since taking office.
So there is much ado about our nation’s highways, and little acknowledgment or solutions posed to address the chronic underfunding by Congress other than higher taxes (whether through levying toll taxes or as we see in the House version -- taxes on energy production). Obama and his Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood have made tolling and P3s the centerpiece of the President’s transportation agenda since taking office.
The House wants a bill that’s funded with existing gas taxes collected, but also relies on a new tax on oil drilling to bridge the gap between needed road funds and the shortfalls in the gas tax. Due to Congress’ failure to address issues with the gas tax or end the practice of wasteful earmarks (ie - diversions and overspending), there is a major shortage of funds to properly address our nation’s infrastructure needs. Further starving the gas tax also translates into unrestrained reliance on tolling to make-up the shortfalls. Congress has been content not to prioritize funding for roads (the arteries of daily living), and all too happy to bloat spending in just about every other arena.
However, both the House and Senate wish to increase debt and borrowing by increasing the TIFIA loan program by nearly a factor of ten up to $1 BILLION a year. TIFIA loans have provided the lifeblood for P3s that sell off our public roads to private equity sharks. The first such loan went to subsidize a private corporation on a deal in San Diego on its South Bay Expressway that summarily went bankrupt 3 years later. The taxpayers lost nearly $80 million on the deal and the Council of Governments (ie - taxpayers) had to bail it out and take it over.
So a continuation of the TIFIA program is fiscally reckless and tantamount to a special interest giveaway that’s rife with abuses. P3s are government-sanctioned monopolies that charge taxpayers a premium to access their own public highways -- 75 cents a mile, like adding $15 to every gallon of gas you buy -- much higher than publicly-run tollways. P3s also include sweetheart provisions that guarantee congestion on the free lanes through non-compete agreements.
The President devoted much of his speech to jobs and the economy and clearly wanted to show his sympathy for those in difficult economic situations. But to ask Americans to pay the equivalent of $15 for a gallon a gas in order to get to work or get their highways fixed, and to act as if the Administration is not interested in raising taxes, is disingenuous at best.
Americans must voice their concerns about this oppressive tax increase on driving before Congress passes and the President signs such a punitive, irresponsible federal highway bill.
Link to article here.
Group aims to thwart transport bill
By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett - Politico
February 1, 2012
The Club for Growth is trying to ensure that conservative Republicans revolt against a massive surface transportation bill.
The group sent a “key vote alert” Wednesday urging members to oppose the bill. It also said their votes would be part of the organization’s 2012 scorecard — meaning conservatives would be docked if they voted for the five-year, $260 billion measure.
Even procedural votes might be on the scorecard, the Club for Growth warned.
“Simply put, this is a massive 846-page bill that doesn't cut any spending at all. Indeed, it spends at least $30 billion more by supplementing fuel taxes with additional revenue from other sources,” the group said in a statement ahead of a Thursday markup at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) said the alert has moved him into the undecided camp.
"I was going to be for it," Campbell said, explaining that he now wants to find out more about why the group opposes the bill. "The scorecard is less of an influence than the fact that there's something they don't like."
Large Republican defections would be devastating to the bill’s chances of clearing the House. Leadership doesn’t expect to win over any Democrats.
“The whip stood up in our conference today and said the bill, as currently written, we’re going to have to pass it with 218 Republican votes,” Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said. He listed problems he has with the bill that include “divisive” truck weight issues, anti-labor provisions and ending the Transportation Enhancement program, so “now you’re pissing off all the people that ride bicycles and like to walk.”
LaTourette hopes the bill can be changed to attract wider support.
“This has to be a bill that everybody signs off on that actually puts people back to work. It can’t be an ideological punching bag, or else it’s dead,” he said.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of T&I’s railroads subcommittee, doesn’t see why the Club for Growth would oppose the bill.
“They called it another bloated bill; there’s tremendous reform in this bill,” he told POLITICO between House votes Wednesday. “If they want to go from A to Z overnight, it can’t be done. This is a significant step in the direction I think they want ultimately, and that’s to have less government.”
Club for Growth President and former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) voted for the much-criticized 2005 transportation bill that spent billions of dollars more than the gas tax took in and included about 6,300 earmarks.
Interviews with multiple freshmen generally showed a wait-and-see approach. Freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member, said it was “way too early” to declare a Republican uprising.
The swift process, with the bill’s introduction on Tuesday and markup two days later, may also unite Democrats with Republicans in opposition.
“There are some on the right that are looking at this the same way I am,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the transportation committee. “And that is in regard to transparency, and the right to know what’s in a bill. They were not consulted in drafting this bill.”
Rahall said he will try to postpone Thursday’s markup until next week.
Jonathan Allen contributed to this report.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 8:27 p.m. on February 1, 2012.