Taxpayer's Tab: H.R. 3839, the Building and Repairing Infrastructure with Domestic Gains in Employment (BRIDGE) Act of 2013

Vol. 5 Issue 2, January 16, 2014

Changes Coming to the Tab!

With the resounding end-of-year support from NTU Foundation Members, we will be able to redesignThe Taxpayer's Tab and provide taxpayers more information on the proposals that will affect government spending. Thank you! Be on the look out for a sleeker, easier-to-share Tab in February.

Interested in helping NTUF educate Americans and up-and-coming students participating in our renowned Associate Policy Analyst program? Make a tax-deductible contribution on our online donation page or mail us a check (made out to National Taxpayers Union Foundation)!

Check out the Wildcard Bill of the Week section to learn about how the government's weather agencies could predict the next superstorm.

Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 3839, the Building and Repairing Infrastructure with Domestic Gains in Employment (BRIDGE) Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $10 billion ($50 billion over five years)

In July of last year, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) experts testified that the Highway Trust Fund, which was set up to be self-sustaining, would be unable to meet its financial obligations in 2015. Meanwhile, reports are raising alarm that thousands of the nation's bridges are in need of improvements. It should be noted that many of these reports are authored by organizations that would greatly benefit from more public spending on infrastructure projects. Moreover, the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards notes that the number of bridges in disrepair has been steadily declining.

To accelerate efforts already underway to fix more bridges, Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has introduced the BRIDGE Act. H.R. 3839 would directly invest $50 billion worth of federal grants for bridge replacement or repairs across the country.

In addition to improving the condition of the nation's bridges, the BRIDGES Act's projects would offer a boost in temporary employment. The new grants would only be authorized in the event construction would create "a significant number of jobs" while helping to alleviate the danger of a deficient bridge. Other government officials have touted the benefits of spending government funds on similar infrastructure projects. Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said in an interview with Fox News that "... while I was at [the Department of Transportation], we spent $48 billion. We put 65,000 people to work doing 15,000 projects."

Based on CBO estimates for related supplemental infrastructure proposals (see, for example, the American Jobs Act of 2011), NTUF assumes that the $50 billion would be spent over a five-year period. There are no offsets to the new spending include in the bill.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit


Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: S. 1376, the FHA Solvency Act of 2013

Annualized Savings: $103 million ($514 million over five years)

For the first time in its history the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) required a $1.7 billion bailout from taxpayers in 2013. Its Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF) is supposed to be self-supporting through premiums. So what went wrong?

The Agency, established in 1934, provides a federal backstop for the mortgage industry. While it does not issue loans, it provides guarantees to lenders to cover losses for credit extended to certain borrowers. Many of these borrowers, including first-time homebuyers and low-income families, may not otherwise be eligible for loans. As the subprime mortgage market collapsed, the FHA's share of loans dramatically increased. From 2007 to 2010, FHA's market share of mortgages increased from 4 percent to 19 percent.

The MMIF is required to maintain a two-percent capital reserve ratio to ensure that it has sufficient funds on hand to cover losses on its guarantees. Because of defaults resulting from its stepped-up activity after 2007, its reserve ratio has been negative since 2012. This triggered the automatic transfer of $1.7 billion last year.

To protect taxpayers from another bailout, Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced the FHA Solvency Act. S. 1376 would require the MMIF to maintain a three percent capital ratio within ten years. If the Fund does not show improvement and meet targets as it builds to the new ratio, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would be required to submit a plan to Congress and the FHA would charge additional premium fees to make up for the shortfall. Additionally, the bill would require higher underwriting standards and prohibit FHA from insuring mortgages to borrowers who have undergone foreclosure two or more times. FHA would also be required to file additional reports on its financial condition.

CBO estimates that the FHA would begin increasing mortgage insurance premiums in 2018. The higher premiums would bring in $522 million that year, which CBO records as offsetting receipts, i.e., funds that are counted against spending. New reporting requirements in S. 1376 would also increase spending by $2 million each year.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit


Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $180 million ($900 million over five years)

Number of Cosponsors: 178 House Members

In 1968, Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in order to give homeowners in flood-prone areas the opportunity to buy protection against flood-related damages. Currently, the federal government subsidizes many policyholders' flood insurance premiums in order to encourage property owners in flood zones to purchase coverage and avoid catastrophic losses. However, those subsidies have left the NFIP with significant amounts of debt -- it was placed on the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) 2013 list of "high risk" programs -- and it owes over $20 billion to the Treasury.

To attempt to improve the financial footing of the NFIP, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012. The law ordered the government to phase out the NFIP's premium subsidies over a four-year period, after which policyholders will begin paying higher rates that reflect what it would cost to buy private coverage -- known as the "actuarial" rate.

Despite Congressional approval of these reforms only a year ago, many lawmakers are urging their colleagues to reconsider them. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, in order to delay the rate increases from taking effect until 2018. The goal is to give the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees NFIP, and other government agencies time to study and rework the flood-risk rating maps that are currently used to assess premium and subsidy rates.

CBO scored a Senate companion bill, S. 1846, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, as a $900 million cost to taxpayers over the next five years. There are no offsets for the new spending included in the bill.

Supporters of H.R. 3422 include 123 Democrats and 55 Republicans.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit




The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $29 million ($115 million over four years)

Extreme weather events across the country -- whether they be tornadoes, superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, or the frigid cold "polar vortex" that swept across much of the country in early January -- have seen no shortage of attention in the press and scientific community. While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a poor track record of predicting how severe a hurricane season will be, meteorologists have been able to provide warnings in advance of specific, significant weather events. Yet some legislators would like to see more done.

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently considered Congressman Jim Bridenstine's (R-OK) proposal, H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act, to provide more funding for federal meteorologists to predict and study "high impact weather events." The bill would direct NOAA to purchase new equipment and conduct research that improves its forecasting abilities. H.R. 2413 would also require the NOAA to coordinate with other government agencies to prioritize weather-related research topics.

Currently, the federal government spends $80 million a year for weather forecasting. If enacted, H.R. 2413 would increase authorizations for federal spending to $120 million through FY 2017. Additional funding would be required to implement planning and research activities in the bill. Based on data from CBO, outlays would increase by a net of $115 million over the next four years, an annual average of $29 million in new spending.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit

We Want You!

NTUF is looking for spring and summer associate policy analysts to participate in our internship program. Associates assist with BillTally research and other policy projects. Academic credit is possible. Email questions to To apply visit our internship page. Join us and help keep a tab on Congress!

Missed an Issue?

Issue 1 - Jan 10
Congress Already Revisiting Its Recently Passed Budget Deal

Issue 43 - Dec 19
Where Could Congress Cut Spending?

Issue 42 - Dec 6
Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act

Issue 41 - Nov 22
Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act

Issue 40 - Nov 15
Community College to Career Fund Act


About NTUF

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a research and educational organization dedicated solely to helping citizens of all generations understand how tax policies, spending programs, and regulations at all levels affect them now and in the future. Through NTUF's timely information, analysis, and commentary, we're empowering citizens to actively engage in the fiscal policy debate and hold public officials accountable every day.

NTUF is a 501(c)(3) research and education organization. Donations are deductible for personal income tax purposes. Please make a donation today to help further NTUF's mission of research and education!

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation or as a comment on any Member's fitness to serve.



108 N. Alfred St. Alexandria, VA 22314