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Press Release


Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Offers Short- and Long-term Recommendations for Reducing Transportation Pork

For Immediate Release May 12, 2005

(Washington, DC) -- As the Senate prepares to tack on an additional $11 billion to the nation's six-year transportation bill, policy experts at a Capitol Hill briefing session today provided concrete recommendations for achieving a more fiscally balanced piece of legislation. The 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) joined Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and other concerned groups to discuss steps to attaining a taxpayer-friendly highway bill.

"With over 4,000 earmarks larding the House bill at a cost of $12.4 billion, it is little wonder Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is calling for $11.2 billion in additional spending," said NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing. "This demand for further outlays exemplifies how money squandered on low-priority projects opens the door for lawmakers to use congestion and horrible road conditions to ask taxpayers for even more money."

Gessing noted that rather than wasting over $10 billion on projects such as bike trails, museums, and unneeded, unwanted infrastructure in Alaska and elsewhere, Congress should carve out these earmarks and replace them with high-priority transportation needs. Gessing was quick to point out that President Bush's hard-line stance on a spending ceiling of $284 billion for the legislation is the first step toward forcing Congress to consider needed reforms.

"While the numerous earmarks in this bill are obviously of great concern, NTU believes they are the symptom of a far greater problem: federal control of America's highways," Gessing said. "Federal lawmakers do not have any special insight into state and local needs that justifies their role in establishing transportation policy; rather, the federal highway program is yet another government venture that has outlived its usefulness and is one more instance in which Congress is loath to relinquish its control."

NTU has long been an active participant in the transportation spending debate. In 2004, the group supported Representative Flake's "Transportation Empowerment Act" (H.R. 3113), which would devolve most federal highway functions to the states. In 2003, NTU submitted recommendations to the Joint Economic Committee for maintaining America's transportation infrastructure without raising taxes, such as ending the diversion of gasoline taxes to inefficient mass transit programs, eliminating subsidies that promote ethanol, and allowing new road projects to be built privately and operated by tolls.

"Congress can begin the move toward genuine reform by removing some of the earmarks tacked onto this federal highway bill," Gessing concluded. "Ultimately, however, federal lawmakers should reevaluate their part in establishing transportation policy -- before taxpayers do."

NTU is a non-profit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. Note: To view NTU's work in the area of transportation policy, visit www.ntu.org.

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