DeMint Objects to $8 Billion Highway Program Bailout
Contact: Wesley Denton (202) 228-5079
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) made the following statement after objecting to passing an $8 billion bailout for the federal highway program without a full and open debate.
“We have deficits as far as the eye can see and yet Congress is trying to pass another $8 billion in debt onto our children and grandchildren,” said Senator DeMint. “We should be reducing wasteful spending to pay for this and we owe it to American taxpayers to live within our means. I’m not going to let the Senate spend all this money when nobody is looking, especially when we refuse to stop wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on earmarks.”
The Highway Trust Fund, which uses federal gasoline taxes to pay for construction and maintenance of interstate highways, is projected to face a $3.2 billion shortfall in 2009. The Senate sought to transfer $8 billion from the U.S. Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund to cover the shortfall as well as other spending through 2010.
The federal highway program faces a funding shortfall in part because it has been used to pay for approximately $5 billion in mass transit projects that fall outside the core mission of the program. Also, the Senate passed a Highway Technical Corrections bill earlier this year that included approximately $1 billion in new spending on new highway and transit projects, including $45 million to start a multi-billion dollar “magnetic levitation” gambling train from California to Nevada. This unnecessary spending should be reversed before taxpayers are asked to foot the bill.
“Telling American taxpayers they have to pay for the out-of-control spending habits of a few politicians in Washington is not something I’m going to tolerate,” added DeMint. “And it’s even worse that we’re trying to do this without any debate. This is bad policy, it’s a bad process, and it sets a bad precedent.”
Senator DeMint is not the only senator to express concerns about transferring general revenues to the Highway Trust Fund. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, objected to a $9 billion transfer earlier this year that would have paid for a federal gas tax holiday. During the floor debate on that proposal Senator Boxer said it should be paid for, stating:
“All taxpayers would have to pay for this. Let’s be clear. … It goes to the Treasury. Who puts money in the Treasury? My taxpayers, your taxpayers, all taxpayers. So taxpayers are now going to pay for this one way or the other… I like to pay for things. Maybe I am old-fashioned. I am an old economics major. I think it is good to pay for things. I think we could figure out a way to pay for things.”