(Washington, DC) -- Congress has 24 billion reasons -- known as tax dollars wasted on pork-barrel projects -- to revisit the spending contained in the recently-enacted highway reauthorization bill, a transportation finance expert with the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) told participants at a Capitol Hill briefing session today. NTU joined several other citizen group and think tank representatives in discussing a proposal from Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to rescind 10 percent of funding from the highway bill to provide both offsets for other more urgent spending priorities and to give states more flexibility with the funds they receive from Washington.
"Even without hurricane relief and military spending putting pressure on federal finances, Congressman Flake's plan to trim road pork and return more funding decisions to the states would make sense," NTU Director of Government Affairs and panel participant Paul Gessing told attendees. "With federal revenues already soaring by a double-digit percentage this year, Washington's bloated spending is definitely the proper side of the federal ledger for seeking out deficit reduction opportunities."
Gessing noted that Congress's overspending problems have manifested themselves throughout the federal government, ranging from farm subsidies to the "No Child Left Behind Act" to the Medicare prescription drug benefit. For that reason, the transportation legislation, which relied on gimmicks like deferred rescissions to meet generous budget targets anyway, "is a perfectly legitimate place to start moving Washington away from bridges to nowhere and toward the road to fiscal sanity," he said.
However, Gessing argued that Congressman Flake's proposal "represents good transportation policy as well as good fiscal policy." Last year, Gessing authored a study in which he pointed out that "Congress's authority over transportation is as unnecessary as the tailfins on a '57 Chevy. Federal lawmakers not only have no special insight into state and local needs that would justify their role in transportation policy, they are actually causing the deterioration of the nation's infrastructure" by misdirecting tax dollars to politically-motivated projects.
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: Gessing's paper, How Pork-Happy Appropriators Are Causing Gridlock on the Nation's Roads (And What Can Be Done to Stop Them), along with other information on transportation policy, is available online at www.ntu.org.