U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released the following statement today after voting against the Senate highway bill. The legislation uses 10 years of budget gimmicks and questionable policy changes to pay for only three years of spending.
"The Highway Trust Fund is one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government, and I am extremely disappointed that both Republicans and Democrats continue to avoid enacting a permanent solution to the problem," said Corker. "This bill represents the very worst of Washington and exemplifies why the American people are so frustrated."
"We have three options: We can spend less on these programs, we can devolve the highway program back to the states, or we can collect enough user fees to sustain the trust fund," added Corker. "I am open to all of those options, but what I cannot do is participate in abject generational theft where we are stealing from our children's futures to pay for today's priorities."
"Over the next month, members of Congress will travel home to meet with the people they represent about a number of important issues. It is my hope that the American people will make it loud and clear that this behavior is unacceptable and will urge their elected officials to find a long-term, fiscally responsible funding mechanism for our federal transportation program," concluded Corker.
A preliminary analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Senate highway bill:
- Transfers approximately $46 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund to cover three years of higher spending;
- Offsets the general fund transfer over a 10-year period while spending all of the funds in the next three years;
- 100% of spending occurs in 2015-2018;
- 69% of the offsets accrue in 2022-2025; AND
- Only 9% of the offsets occur in the years the money is actually being spent.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Corker outlined the following three most egregious offsets used for the $46 billion general fund transfer:
- Extends an increase in the guarantee fee charged by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which oversee nearly every housing loan made in America today. This offset was explicitly prohibited in the budget resolution that passed the Senate in May, and the policy change would increase mortgage costs for many American homebuyers. ($2 billion)
- Reduces the dividend rate the Federal Reserve System pays to member banks from 6% to 1.5%, altering a policy that has been in place since the 1930s without any hearings or committee action. ($17 billion)
- Authorizes the sale of approximately 100 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from 2018-2025 with half of the sales occurring in 2024 and 2025. Analysts indicate the average sale price would have to be $89 per barrel to achieve the desired revenue and $74 per barrel to avoid a loss. Oil is currently priced around $50 per barrel and future prices are uncertain. ($9 billion)