If the House highway bill is an excrement sandwich, the Senate version is…well, it’s a lot worse. The one saving grace of the bill was that it supposedly did not contain any earmarks. Well, indeed there is one earmark in the bill, and it’s directed to Nevada. The earmark is ensconced in the bill very cleverly. On page 463 of the bill (lines 8-14), it states the following language:
(d) CERTAIN ALLOCATIONS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any unobligated balances of amounts required to be allocated to a State by section 1307(d)(1) of the SAFETEA–LU (23 U.S.C. 322 note; 119 Stat. 1217; 122 Stat. 1577) shall instead be made available to such State for any purpose eligible under section 133(c) of title 23, United States Code.
In case you were wondering which “allocation” of SAFETEA-LU (the 2005 highway bill) is being directed to “such state,” you can look back into section 1307(d)(1) of that bill. It contains the following provision:
(d) Allocation- Of the amounts made available to carry out this section for a fiscal year, the Secretary shall allocate 50 percent for the MAGLEV project between Las Vegas and Primm, Nevada, and 50 percent for a MAGLEV project located east of the Mississippi River.
The original earmark allocated $45 million for an environmental impact study of a magnetic train from Las Vegas to California. That money, which was unspent, will be redirected to Nevada’s Department of Transportation instead of the federal government’s DOT. This is a prime example of why all transportation authority -outlays and revenue – should be devolved to the states. We should not be spreading around money from some states to others.
Senator Mike Johanns, who discovered this hidden earmark, is introducing an amendment to strip out the earmark. Kudos to Senator Johanns for the diligent work in exposing Harry Reid’s duplicity.
Now we must focus on the broader problems of the bill. S. 1813 will bankrupt the highway trust fund and raise taxes to pay for some of the deficit. It’s nice to vote for the amendment to strip out the earmark. But Republicans must vote down the underlying bill as well.