(Alexandria, VA) -- Despite his announced intention to sign the mammoth $286.5 billion highway bill into law, President Bush still has plenty of reasons to change his mind and veto the legislation, according to a letter from six prominent citizen groups sent to the White House today. The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and Taxpayers for Common Sense Action organized the statement.
"Despite your stated position on the issue, Congress used budget gimmicks to break the $283.9 billion budget ceiling you set by approximately $11 billion," the letter to Bush noted. "Your veto will send the message that Congress must rein in its profligate spending habits ...."
The list of signatories on the statement reads like a virtual "who's who" of fiscal watchdog organizations. Leaders with the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks joined with officials from Taxpayers for Common Sense Action and NTU on the letter.
The signers pointed out that Congress's decision to exceed the President's recommended funding level by $2.5 billion was "reason alone" for a veto. However, they cited several other arguments against signing the legislation:
- Congress included an $8.5 billion rescission of past budget authority that conveniently takes effect on September 30, 2009 -- the last day the bill remains in force. Combined with the extra $2.5 billion Congress approved, this could have the effect of breaking Bush's budget ceiling by $11 billion for virtually the entire life of the proposed law. "By pushing off the rescission until the very end of the bill, it is likely that supporters of the legislation are simply waiting for a future Congress and Administration to fill this funding hole," the signatories observed.
- The bill is packed with nearly 6,500 member-requested projects amounting to more than $24 billion (almost nine percent of the total spending). "President Reagan vetoed a transportation bill in 1987 because there were 152 such earmarks," the letter stated.
- Signing the transportation bill as is would undermine the President's expressed goal of halving the deficit by 2009, especially in light of the rescission tactic.
While President Bush described the transportation bill yesterday as "fiscally responsible," the signatories contend that much more work needs to be done on the legislation before it is worthy of such a term. "H.R. 3 is full of wasteful spending and uses budget gimmicks that hide the true cost to taxpayers," the letter concluded. "We urge you to veto it, so Congress can craft a [genuinely] fiscally responsible transportation bill."
NTU is a non-profit citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: The letter to President Bush, along with numerous commentaries and studies on transportation policy, is available online at www.ntu.org.