More Problems With the Highway Bill

Friday, May 11th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

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As 50 or so members of both houses sit behind closed doors and map out the entire transportation policy for 50 states, we are still discovering some more pernicious provisions of the bill.  Ken Orski, the author of the weekly Innovation News Briefs, has sent us the following message:

Critics are also paying close attention to changes that were quietly slipped into the Senate bill and approved on the  floor by unanimous consent without debate on March 13, one day before the final passage of the bill.  They include, notably, an amendment affecting the treatment of transportation “enhancements” (Sec. 1113 of MAP-21). This provision shifts the flexibility to decide how to spend the enhancements set-aside money  from the state DOTs to local government agencies, thus substantially modifying an earlier agreement  reached by the leaders of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. As the Committee’s chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and its ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) agreed at the November markup of the bill, it was only a compromise on that contentious issue that allowed the parties to move forward on the entire bill.

Other MAP-21 provisions that have raised questions include a requirement that every new motor vehicle beginning in 2015 be equipped with a recording device designed to store data related to vehicle safety; and authority to revoke passports of tax delinquents (which the bill estimates would raise $743 million  over ten years to help cover the $12 billion shortfall in transportation spending).

It is incontrovertibly clear that the final product of the highway bill conference report will not only contain profligate spending, but many statist mandates as well.  There is no excuse for any Republican to vote for it.  Unfortunately, they are all supporting the bill.  There is one member of the conference committee who is showing himself to be a beacon of sanity amongst the statist.  Politico reports that James Lankford (R-OK) is moving towards support of devolution:

LANKFORD STATE OF MIND: Remember when Sen. Barbara Boxer informed Rep. James Lankford that states receive more transportation funding than they pay out to the feds? Lankford certainly does. “Basically what I heard is: ‘Hey, we’ve given them more money they’ve paid in the gas tax, what else would they want?’ They don’t want more money at this point, they want the freedom to make it cheaper. That’s very different than just continuing to throw more money at it.”

Keep preaching the 10th amendment, Mr. Lankford!