Driving the Week Recap: Transportation Passes
This week delivered several “telling” votes, allowing the American people to see who in the Senate is really looking out for their best interests. While the transportation bill eventually passed, twenty-two senators stood up for the American people and said “no” to higher spending. It turned out to be a contentious battle that is causing some to rethink the way Congress does transportation, setting the stage for future victories.
MAP-21 (S.1813) extends transportation funding and programs for 2 years at a cost of $109 billion, which is more than revenues (such as the gas tax) will bring in for the same time period. It will deplete the Highway Trust Fund and lead to yet another general fund transfer to cover the gap – in other words, a bailout.
The other big votes of the week were all amendments to the transportation bill. One amendment, offered by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) would have reformed the transportation system by turning back some control to the states. This would have reduced the gas tax and allowed States to keep their own gas tax revenues in order to use on the projects they deem necessary, instead of the central-planning scheme devised by Congress. An incredible thirty senators voted for this amendment; in fact, more Republicans voted for Senator DeMint’s amendment than the actual transportation bill. The vote proved that there is a chance that someday states can regain control of their own transportation spending, and that the federal government would lose some of its control.
Senator DeMint’s other amendment would eliminate all targeted energy tax subsidies. Any government handouts that have been carved out for the energy sector, whether it be wind, solar, biofuels, nuclear, gas or even oil, would be removed and the corporate tax would have been lowered. This would allow all types of energy to finally compete on their own merits, instead of the government deciding which sectors should win and which should lose. Twenty-six senators said that it’s time to stop using taxpayer dollars for corporate welfare.
Two amendments were successfully defeated – as they should have been. Forty-nine senators – including four Democrats – voted to not extend current energy tax credits which distort the market and create crony capitalism. Allowing these tax credits to expire will help level the playing field and make the energy industry be about innovation, rather than handouts.
The final amendment, which failed, was the infamous NAT GAS Act. Forty-seven senators – including seven Democrats – voted down the massive new subsidy, which would have provided taxpayer-funded handouts to all aspects of the natural gas vehicle industry, even though the industry is moving along at lightning speed without the subsidy.
The transportation bill now goes to the House. We will continue to oppose this big-spending, big-government boondoggle. The more conservatives who stand up and say “no” to bills that typically fly under the radar, the better chance we have at changing the way Washington works and saving our economy.