DeMint: Earmarks and Energy Bans Caused Highway Trust Fund Shortfalls
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), announced that he will offer amendments to the proposed $8 billion highway bailout eliminating wasteful earmarks and ending bans on American energy exploration.
“Our nation’s highway funds have run out because Congress spent billions on earmarks and blocked energy exploration, which has needlessly raised the cost of gasoline,” said Senator DeMint. “I will not object to Senator Reid bringing legislation to the floor to address this shortfall, but when he does, I will offer amendments to actually fix the problems that caused this shortfall in the first place.”
“We must stop wasteful earmarks for bike paths and museums that divert critical funding away from priority roads and bridges. And we must immediately end the irrational bans on American oil and gas exploration so we can reduce the cost of gas at the pump. Unless we enact these two necessary reforms, we will face this same problem again in the near future.”
On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters warned Congress to stop forcing billions to be spent on wasteful earmarks instead of real priorities:
She urged Congress, however, to avoid adding pet projects, new earmarks or unrelated provisions on the “must pass” legislation… She said Congress should do away with billions in annual earmarks and consolidate the over 100 special niche programs that require states to slice and dice federal transportation funds to do things like build museums and restore lighthouses.
A 2007 report by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General contains the following findings on the problems created by transportation earmarks:
• Department of Transportation (DOT) earmarks have increased in number by 1,150 percent in 10 years (1996 – 2005), with the value of earmarks in the same timeframe jumping 314 percent.
• Ninety-nine percent of earmarks (7,724 out of 7,760) were not subject to the transportation agencies’ review and selection processes or bypassed the states’ normal planning and programming processes.
• Earmarks may not be the most effective or efficient use of funds. The IG report identifies five ways in which earmarks impact programs in the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration, as follows (see pages 11 – 14 of the full report).