Critics of the rule changes stepped forward immediately. A group of more than 20 transportation and business groups say the changes would make funding “subject to the whim of the appropriation process.” The Associated Equipment Distributors say the changes would leave highway funding “to the whim of the appropriators.”
American Road and Transportation Builders Association President Pete Ruane says that, “13 years ago, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike voted overwhelmingly to provide budgetary guarantees that ensured all federal gas and diesel tax user fee revenue collected for the Highway Trust Fund would be invested exclusively and in a timely manner in state highway, bridge and transit improvements. Today, House Republicans behind closed doors, in a secret ballot, unilaterally rescinded those guarantees as part of their new House rules package. This is a reversion back to the budget gimmicks of the past that allows the Highway Trust Fund balance to be used to hide the true size of the federal deficit.
“The real-life implication of this action is that it injects further uncertainty into the already reeling U.S. transportation construction market where unemployment is in excess of 18 percent — twice the national average. Long-term transportation plans and projects require stable, predictable funding,” said Ruane. “With multiyear Reauthorization of the federal highway and transit programs now more than 15 months overdue, this sends the wrong signal to the states and Wall Street.”
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director John Horsley says, “there are two deficits facing the country today — the federal debt and the deficit in maintaining the infrastructure on which the economic recovery depends. In their zeal to address the first issue, the new House leadership has taken action that deepens the second.”
The American Highway Users Alliance says that House Republicans had “voted to do away with longstanding budgetary firewalls that guarantee multiyear highway funding levels in the annual appropriations bills. The loss erodes public trust in the Highway Trust Fund and will destabilize funding for future highway projects and programs.”
The Bond Buyer’s Hume also points out that “the new House rules also replace pay-as-you-go with a ‘cut-as-you-go’ regime, but will permit taxes to be cut without offsets to the resulting revenue losses, which market participants said could be good for munis (municipal bonds) because any easing of the federal tax law’s bond restrictions results in revenue loss. . . . Under the old pay-as-you-go rule, all new spending had to be offset with revenue-raising provisions. Instead, the rules would establish a cut-as-you-go regime under which legislation that would increase mandatory spending over one, five or 10 years would have to cut spending by an equal or greater amount elsewhere.”v
This is a backdoor gas tax!!!
Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has ripped off a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson blasting the agency for what she said is imposing a backdoor gas tax on Americans. The letter speaks for itself:
Dear Administrator Jackson:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on December 23, 2010 its plans to impose costly greenhouse gas regulations on refineries, which will hurt every American driver, trucker, farmer and flier with higher gasoline, diesel and jet fuel prices. Higher prices passed on to consumers will feel like a new gas tax. I urge you to consider the economic impacts of this announcement and not to impose this burden on all Americans.
America’s families and workers are still struggling to recover from one of the worst recessions in American history. Millions of Americans remain out of work with unemployment stuck near 10 percent. Family budgets already stretched thin face gasoline prices 39 cents higher and diesel fuel 52 cents more expensive per gallon than this time last year. This of course raises expenses for every family and business. All of this limits the ability to create new jobs or keep life affordable for Americans.
Your agency is circumventing the role of Congress. With heavy input from constituents, Congress has already rejected attempts to use cap-and-trade to force fuel prices higher with costly new greenhouse gas mandates on the American people. A report entitled Climate Change Legislation: A $3.6 Trillion Gas Tax authored by myself and [Missouri] Senator [Kit] Bond calculated the cost of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill on gasoline, diesel and jet fuel prices using publicly-available government figures.
This effort by the Administration would be imposing its own backdoor carbon regulations. The EPA previously announced regulations to require not only large industrial facilities, but eventually even hospitals, schools, farms and local small businesses to accept new costly carbon regulations. These will cripple growth and the ability to create new jobs. EPA’s recent announcement may target oil refineries with expensive new greenhouse gas performance standards; however, it is consumers who will face higher fuel prices passed on to them in the form of more pain at the pump. Threatened also are refinery workers across America, who will face the prospect of losing their good-paying, middle-class-supporting jobs if your regulations curtail operations.
I urge you to forgo these intended plans and allow Congress working with the President to make responsible policy decisions.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
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